The Hungarian Government has recognized the religious and social activity of Faith Church in a contract, and guaranteed that the church could continue to exercise its religious freedom uninterrupted and independent.
The contract was preceded by a 2006 agreement, which was now extended and reinforced. With this, after Prime Ministers Miklós Németh and Ferenc Gyurcsány, the government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has officially recognized the activities of the Evangelical church founded by Sándor Németh in 1979.
The contract was signed in the Prime Minister’s Office in the Buda Castle district by Zsolt Semjén, Deputy Prime Minister and Sándor Németh, the founder and Senior Pastor of Faith Church.
‘Following the Hungarian model, we stand for the freedom of cooperation with regard to the relationship between state and church, in which the church enjoys complete freedom regarding religious matters, and the state provides legal protection for this freedom and helps the church fulfill its public functions.
In this agreement, the government ensures these based on equity and the equal rights of citizens for Faith Church, which is the most significant Hungarian representative of the neoprotestant movement’ - emphasized Zsolt Semjén following the signing.
‘Faith Church started as an underground movement at the end of the seventies, and it gained government recognition after a long period of struggles in 1989. During the change of regime, our target was to create a free state in which free churches could function, so that we too may freely proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God. After the turn of the millennium, society started to accept Faith Church gradually and in the last few years a harmonic relationship emerged with state and municipal institutions as well. We wish to remain a self-sustaining church, therefore we do not ask for any financial support toward our pastors, but we welcome this contract as it creates a legal and political guarantee for the future functioning of our church’ - appraised Senior Pastor Sándor Németh the contract signed with the government.
According to the contract the government ‘recognizes and appreciates the work of Faith Church for its moral and spiritual values and community building as well as its faith-motivated efforts made for the moral and spiritual betterment of the nation’ and notes with satisfaction that since the agreement signed on 19 April 2016, the ‘public functions as well as the social and public activities’ of the church ‘have further expanded’, it became necessary to reaffirm the cooperation in the form of a contract.
The government recognizes that Faith Church ‘represents values that form the basis of European state administration and society, values which are fundamental for the Hungarian society.’
The agreement emphasizes that Faith Church gained state recognition back in 1989 based on the 1895 law on religion in effect. The contract guarantees the complete autonomy of the functioning of the church and its public, undisturbed worship ‘according to its own doctrines’, furthermore resolves to ‘enhance its presence in national public in proportion to its significance in society’, including free speech in the media and ‘proclaiming the gospel in the public domain’.
Among the practical provisions, the contract mentions that the government ensures that Faith Church can continue its activities in non-denominational educational institutions as well as toward law enforcement workers. Based on this, the government ensures that Faith Church will be able to take part in complimentary military, prison and hospital chaplain ministries.
Faith Church following a self-supporting church model does not wish to receive any government subsidies for providing this expanded range of activities.
Regarding activities serving the betterment of society other than religious practices such as education, charity and the protection of children, youth and the family, Faith Church will receive financial support according to existing agreements made beforehand with other denominations.
The contract states that 'through the international relations of the Church, it works to promote the good reputation of Hungary, strengthens the identity and encourages the efforts of Hungarians living abroad or in the diaspora to preserve and cultivate the Hungarian language and culture.’
In the chapter about the financial support given by the Government to Faith Church, the contract reaffirms the previously existing forms of financial support such as one percent contributions and the normative financial support of activities serving the public good on the same terms as for state and municipal institutions.
Within the contract, the Hungarian Government recognizes that Faith Church ‘receives and collects offerings according to its own customs that the state, municipal and public organizations are not permitted to request data about.’
The contract states that Saint Paul's Academy, the higher education institution belonging to Faith Church shall in the future launch non-religious courses on a new faculty besides the existing theological one.
In order to achieve a long-term sustainable functioning of the church, the government resolves not to initiate the modification of laws in connection with the contract unilaterally.
Photos: Faith Church/ Győző Dósa