The right of thought, the freedom of conscience and religion
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The Constitution attaches great importance to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion: on the one hand, it declares this right for everyone, and on the other hand - making an effort to provide an accurate definition also in structural terms - also determines the essential contents and the basic guarantees of the declared right .
Accordingly, it is the content of this right that everyone is free to exercise or adopt his/her religion or other conscious belief, and everyone is free to exercise, teach, manifest or even to disregard the manifestation of his/her religion or belief by exercising religious actions and ceremonies, or in any other manner (individually or together with others, publicly or privately).
Among the constitutional guarantees for the enforcement of the right, the Constitution first lays down a state organisation guarantee: namely that the state is operated in a manner separated from the church. This means that the state as well as religious and church-related functions may not overlap, i.e. there is no "state religion", moreover, the state is expressly neutral in issues concerning religion and conscious belief, at the same time, however, the state also has to pay attention to the characteristic features of religion and various churches . The second phase of the guarantee circle is that the Constitution regards the act on the freedom of conscience and religion as a key act, and its adoption and modification require a qualified majority in the Parliament.
The Parliament made stipulations about the freedom of conscience and religion and about churches in the course of the political and economic restructuring process as early as in February 1990, proclaiming Act IV of 1990. While the earlier one-party system expressly focused on keeping churches, religions and other religious communities in the background, the above-mentioned act basically emphasises that these organisations can be regarded as important in society, they carry values and have the force to create communities. These communities play a primary role in religious life, which means that in an organisational sense they offer places of implementation for an essential and basic constitutional right, but their role is also considerable with regard to their cultural, educational as well as social and health activities and with regard to the fact that they cherish and maintain national conscience.
Besides the fact that everyone is free to exercise his/her right and the state is also obliged to provide this right, those who manifest and exercise their religion or belief may not suffer any disadvantage and may not be entitled to any advantages in a legal sense. It is prohibited to enter into state or official registration any data regarding religion or other belief, and if any data are already existing about a person, relevant information may only be provided to the person concerned, or to his/her relatives on the direct line after the person's death.
No one may be prevented from exercising his/her freedom of conscience and religion, but - unless otherwise specified by law - this does not make any exemption from the fulfilment of citizenship obligations. In terms of military defence obligations, this also means that those who do not wish to use weapons based on their belief may perform military service without the use of weapons or may perform civil service, however, religion or any other belief may not make persons exempt from the payment of rates and taxes.
Parents and guardians are entitled to decide on the moral and religious education of minor children as well as to provide for it in an appropriate manner.
The border conditions for exercising religion are provided by the state and by the churches under normal, everyday circumstances, but the act also stipulates that exercising religion in an individual and communal form must be made available also for those who are taken care of in social, health, children's and youth protection institutions as well as for those who are detained in penal institutions. This includes the provision of locations and occasions for individual or communal ceremonies, and - if necessary - also the opportunity to keep up eating habits according to the prescriptions of a specific belief or religion. With regard to the special conditions, those who perform military service can freely exercise these rights in a manner that it must be made in harmony with the operating order of the military organisation and with other rules of fulfilling the defence obligations.
The act allows, as a general rule, for persons following identical beliefs to establish religious communities, denominations and churches - with self-government - in order to exercise their religion . Such churches may be set up for exercising all religious activities that are not against the Constitution and that are not against the laws.
The conditions regarding the establishment of a church are defined by law on a normative basis, i.e. the county (Budapest) court entitled to register the church may not consider the expediency of the foundation, and may not make a judgement on the basis of whether it meets any state or other requirement: entering the church into registration may only be refused if the church is intended to be established for purposes that are against the Constitution or the laws, or if the foundation of the church is not in conformity with the minimum requirements set by the act . Accordingly, upon the foundation, all churches must possess the foundation intention of at least a hundred natural persons, duly adopted statues that specify the name of the church - different from other, already registered churches - its central seat, the structural set-up and the description of any eventual organisational unit with a legal entity, an elected management and representation body, as well as the declaration of the founders that makes clear their intention to establish the church in accordance with the laws. The report on the registration must be made by the person entitled to represent the future church, enclosing the statues and the required declaration.
It is characteristic of the relationship of the church and the state - apart from their separation - that no force by the state may be employed in order to validate church rules, furthermore churches are entitled to the same rights and carry the same obligations, and that the state may not establish any supervisory body to control the church.
In other respects the churches may carry out any educational, social and health activities that the law does not maintain exclusively for state organisations or institutions. The church is a legal entity, which means that it may establish contractual or other relations with natural persons or other legal entities, its assets are primarily made up of donations and contributions, it may also collect donations on the basis of its own rules, but - according to the conditions regarding social organisations - it may also pursue business management activities in order to meet its objectives.
The church is deleted from the registration in the case where it is merged into another church, or de-merged into two or more churches, or if the church declared its dissolution, or if it is found by a prosecutor's action that the church pursues activities against the Constitution or the laws and fails to terminate such activities despite a demand to do so, as well as in cases where the church terminates its activities and does not make any provisions about its assets.