Prior to his appointment as Minister without Portfolio, candidate for the post Zsolt Semjén attended a hearing before Parliament’s Justice Committee on Monday at which he stated that he is prepared to rethink the current system enabling Hungarians to contribute 1 percent of their personal income tax to charity each year.

As an example, the Christian Democrat politician cited the fact that the reduction in the level of personal income tax also affects the social support system, suggesting that resources should be linked to GDP to negate the uncertainties caused by these effects.

As he explained, he is open to change, but since the 1 percent is currently supplemented to the total sum, the system could continue operating in its current state in future. The candidate spoke out in support of church interdependence and religious freedom.

Mr. Semjén reported on the fact that the number of church-maintained institutions has doubled since 2010, with the ratio of church schools increasing from 6 to 13, and the proportion of church-run social institutions increasing from 11 percent to 23 percent. He confirmed that he supports the church taking over further institutions in response to public demand.

The candidate for the post of Minister without Portfolio reported on the fact that 270 thousand children currently have the opportunity to attend religious studies classes, and state funding for churches has increased to 55 billion forints (EUR 174 million) from 24 billion (EUR 76 million) in 2010. In addition, the income of posted pastors has increased by 80 percent, funding for cross-border churches are increasing, and the Government has launched a host of nursery school development projects and other programmes, including the Reformation Year and preparations for the International Eucharistic Congress in 2020.

Mr. Semjén also spoke about the Churches Act, explaining that in his view only the regulations concerning the founding of Churches had received major media attention, while in fact this is just a tiny slice of the well-thought-out legislation. He spoke out in favour of differentiating between Churches that have existed for centuries and “newly devised religious experiments”.

In response to a question, the candidate for Minister said the two-thirds majority would enable the Government to solve the issues included in the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling, explaining that an amendment bill had already been put forward during the Government’s previous term in office, but the opposition had not been a partner to its adoption in parliament. We have been in negotiation and have reached a compromise on the majority of issues, he stated.

Mr. Semjén also rejected claims that Church institutions were receiving three times as much funding as state-run institutions, explaining that discrimination existed under the MSZP-SZDSZ government, and that financing was now equal.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)