The National Assembly has 60 days to make a decision on acknowledging a church, but at present there are no legal sanctions whatsoever connected to the failure to do so, resulting in the absence of a legal remedy for the affected religious organisation, if no decision is adopted. On the other hand, the Constitutional Court specified as a requirement under the Fundamental Law that the rules of fair procedure should also be enforced during the procedure aimed at obtaining the status of “established church”. Therefore the Court established in its latest decision the existence of an omission resulting in the violation of the Fundamental Law and it called upon the National Assembly to adopt legislation.

In the base case, the petitioner who submitted the constitutional complaint was a church that has operated as a registered church since 1990. The petitioner also complained about the fact that although it maintained its status as a church and it was recorded as a church in the court registry, still in certain procedures (for example regarding the financing of the elderly home it operated) its church-status was not acknowledged. As in the petitioner’s opinion it was a discrimination of a religious community without a constitutional cause, it requested the annulment of the Curia’s relevant judgement.

On the one hand the Constitutional Court established that the actual judgement of the Curia and the underlying interpretation of the law were not in conflict with the Fundamental Law, but on the other hand it examined ex officio whether the injury alleged by the petitioner could have been the result of incomplete regulation. As the Fundamental Law sets conditions for becoming an “established church”, it is not considered as a subjective right of the religious community, but adopting the relevant decision is not only within the National Assembly’s scope of competence, it is a duty of the National Assembly. The underlying procedure preceding the decision should comply with the requirements resulting from the right to fair procedure: the case should be handled fairly and within a reasonable time, and a way for legal remedy against the decision should be offered. Accordingly, the Constitutional Court called upon the National Assembly to establish, until 31 March 2018, the statutory guarantee of adopting a decision on the merits on acknowledging a church within a reasonable statutory time limit.

Judge Dr. László Salamont attached a concurring opinion, while Judges Dr. István Balsai and Dr. Egon Dienes-Oehm attached dissenting opinions to the decision. The full text of the decision of the Constitutional Court is available on the Constitutional Court’s website (alkotmanybirosag.hu).

Budapest, 20 December 2017