a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 04-06-2003 / e) 32/2003 / f) / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 2003/62 / h) .
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
General Principles - Relations between the State and bodies of a religious or ideological nature.
Institutions - Judicial bodies - Jurisdiction.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Church, member / Church, regulation, internal / Church, state law, application.
In accordance with the Constitution, State courts are competent to deal with legal disputes arising from relations between the Church and persons in a legal relationship with the Church, where that relationship is based on the legal rules of the State. Such competence does not violate the constitutional principle of the separation of Church and State.
The case is based on lengthy labour proceedings, during which several courts stated that in a legal dispute concerning the official relations of a qualified clergyman with the Church, the proceedings had to be conducted according to the laws of the Church, and any claims arising from such relations fell exclusively within the competence of the ecclesiastical courts. For that reason, the Supreme Court found it did not have jurisdiction over Application no. 8211. It did not adjudicate on the merits and stayed the proceedings.
The petitioner lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Court against the decision of the Supreme Court. He challenged Article 15.1 and 15.2 of the Act IV of 1990 on the freedoms of conscience and religion, and the Churches (henceforth: the Act). The petitioner considered that the unilateral use of those provisions resulted in a violation of Article 57.1 of the Constitution, guaranteeing the right to turn to the court. Article 15.1 of the Act declares the separation of Church and State in the same words as the Constitution. Article 15.2 states that no State pressure may be used against the internal laws and regulations of the Church.
The Constitutional Court found the petition unfounded as to both impugned provisions. Concerning Article 15.1 of the Act, unconstitutionality was formally out of question, since its wording repeats that of Article 60.3 of the Constitution. In relation to Article 15.2 of the Act (the prohibition of State pressure in the internal legal disputes of the Church), the Constitutional Court considered that it was the logical result of Article 60.3 of the Constitution (and Article 15.1 of the Act). The principle of the separation of Church and State prohibits the State from interfering in religious questions and in the internal affairs of the Church. In that way, the Church or its authorised bodies may ensure that church rules are observed as to the regulation of internal church relations between the Church and its members through proceedings determined by the Church.
It is nevertheless possible for the Church and one of its members, or even a person in the service of the Church, to enter into a legal relationship based on the legal rules of the State.