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Hungary Constitutional Court strikes down church law

The Constitutional Court of Hungary [official website, in Hungarian] on Tuesday struck down [judgment, PDF, in Hungarian, press release, in Hungarian] a law that outlines how churches are given official designation, finding that it was too political. Under the law, only Parliament could give churches official status. The law did not contain an appeals process, and there was no justification for Parliament's decisions. The court called on [AP report] Parliament to address the problems with the law and pass new regulations that are more transparent and make it more difficult for groups that do not actually carry out religious activities to receive the benefits of a religious organization, including tax-free status and other government support, as well as the ability to collect donations.

Sixteen Hungarian churches called for the law to be repealed [JURIST report] in August 2011. Freedom House [advocacy website] sent a letter [text] to the Human Rights Commissioners of the European Commission and the Council of Europe [official websites] asking the international authorities to initiate action against Hungary, claiming the law violates Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights [texts]. Freedom House also said the law is inconsistent with Hungary's constitution [press release] and condemned Hungary for passing the law.

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