Hungary elected a Conservative government recently and the Conservatives have wasted no time using their supermajority to fundamentally rewrite every aspect of Hungarian law. They've attacked transparency, civil rights, and basic human freedoms. As well as banning all but a handful of religions.
The Unconstitutional Constitution - NYTimes.com
On New Year’s Day, the new Hungarian constitution became law. The Hungarian parliament has been preparing for this event by passing a blizzard of “cardinal” – or super-majority – laws, changing the shape of virtually every political institution in Hungary and making the guarantee of constitutional rights less secure. In the last two weeks alone, the parliament has enacted so many new laws that it has been almost impossible to keep up. And to top it off, there was also a huge new omnibus constitutional amendment – an amendment to the new constitution even before it went into effect. By one commentator’s count, the Fidesz government has enacted 359 new laws since it came to power 18 months ago.
All of the laws connected to the new constitutional structure kicked into action yesterday if they hadn’t already taken effect. As a result, with the new year, Hungarians began living in a new constitutional order. In this new order, all of the escape hatches that would permit reentry into a constitutional democracy have been bolted shut. If constitutions are supposed to guarantee checks on political power and ensure the rights of citizens, this is an unconstitutional constitution.
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But it is worth lingering on the newly re-enacted law on the status of churches because it is one of the places where we can clearly see the effects of the new constitutional order on the protection of constitutional rights. What does the law on churches do? It creates 14 state-recognized religions, and decertifies the rest. On January 1, over 300 denominations lose their official status in Hungary – including their tax exemptions and their abilities to run state-funded schools. While most of the denominations are tiny, many are not. Among the religions that will no longer be able to operate with state approval are all versions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Baha’i, as well as many smaller Catholic orders including the Benedictines, Marists, Carmelites and Opus Dei, and a number of major Protestant denominations including Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Methodists, and all but one of the evangelical churches. One each of the orthodox, conservative and liberal Jewish synagogues are recognized; but all other Jewish congregations are not. A detailed analysis of the original churches law, reenacted essentially unchanged, election law with its gerrymandered electoral districts, MPs from the tiny youth party, LMP, chained themselves together to prevent the cars of Fidesz MPs from parking in their assigned parking spaces at the parliament building. The LMP MPs were detained and taken to the police station for a few hours. Some Socialist MPs, including former Prime Minister Gyurcs�ny, were also taken into custody when they arrived to lend their support to the demonstration.
But the parliamentary session went on, and passed the new election law anyway. Since the Fidesz supermajority has a quorum as well as all of the votes needed to pass cardinal laws and even constitutional amendments, the absence of the opposition from that parliamentary session made no difference to any of the 14 laws were enacted that day.