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Step Forward for Adventist Church Re-registration in Hungary

'This has been a long and difficult saga for the Adventist Church in Hungary,' says PARL leader

A Hungarian parliamentary committee announced this week that it is recommending 17 religious denominations—including the Seventh-day Adventist Church—for official “church status” under a religion law that has dramatically altered Hungary’s religious landscape.

Under Hungary’s Law on Churches, first passed in July last year, 14 denominations retained their traditional legal status while some 300 minority religious groups were deregistered and invited to reapply for church status. The Adventist Church in Hungary submitted its application to the Ministry of Justice earlier this year.

“We’re delighted that this application has passed the committee stage, but we are still awaiting the vote of parliament, which should take place early next week,” said Raafat Kamal, public affairs and religious liberty director for the Trans-European division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “I want to express thanks to those around the world who have been praying for the church in Hungary during this time of uncertainty.”

The Law on Churches was overturned on technical grounds by the country’s constitutional court in December last year. Just weeks later, the Hungarian parliament passed a similar law which became effective on January 1, 2012.

“This has been a long and difficult saga for the Adventist Church in Hungary, along with many other minority religious groups,” says Dr. John Graz, public affairs and religious liberty director for the Adventist world church. “We continue to pray that this process of re-registration will move forward, and that there will be no adverse effect to the operations of the church in Hungary.”

The government of Hungary has said that this law is aimed at weeding out fraudulent organizations which, in the past, have benefited from rights and privileges extended to churches. Religious freedom advocates, however, have decried this approach. While acknowledging the complex political and economic factors involved, many have suggested that the law places an undue burden on religious minorities, opens the door for official religious discrimination, and contravenes international covenants protecting religious freedom. [Bettina Krause/PARL]