Looming De-registration of Churches in Hungary Prompts IRLA Meeting with Ambassador

More than 300 religious organizations are set to lose legal status on Jan. 1

Dec. 13, 2011 ... International Religious Liberty Association leaders met this week with the Hungarian ambassador to the United States in an effort to help officials from that country better understand the potential effects of a looming deregistration of churches.The Law of Churches, set for implementation on January 1, would deregister all but 14 religious denominations in Hungary.

Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, Gyorgy Szapary, met with IRLA deputy secretary generals Dwayne Leslie and Ganoune Diop on December 12 at the Hungarian embassy in Washington, D.C. While the law is still set for implementation, the IRLA representatives later described the meeting as "cordial" and "productive."

"We expressed our deep concerns to Ambassador Szapary about Hungary's recently passed 'Law on Churches' and its impact, not just on the Adventist Church, but on many other minority religions as well," said Dwayne Leslie, director of legislative affairs for the IRLA. Leslie represented the IRLA at the meeting along with Ganoune Diop, the organization's representative to the United Nations.

Following Monday's meeting, Diop said the ambassador was gracious and receptive to the issues presented."The meeting provided an excellent opportunity for dialogue -- we stated our concerns clearly, and heard the perspective of the Hungarian government," he said.

When the new law, voted in July, goes into effect next month, it will strip all but 14 "historic" religions of their legal status. Minority religions must then apply to the Hungarian parliament for re-registration.

Since the legislation was passed, Hungary has maintained that the move was not "anti-religion," but rather a legislative means to root out fraudulent organizations operating behind the protection of religion.

Religious liberty advocates worldwide, however, have decried the law, calling it unnecessary state interference with religion and a setback for human rights in Hungary. More than 300 groups are set to lose their registration, including Hungary's Methodists, Unitarians, a number of Islamic communities, and many smaller Protestant and evangelical churches. [Bettina Krause/IRLA]