Researcher: Dr. Lóránt Csink
(Full professor, Department of Constitutional Law, Pázmány Péter Catholic University)
Religious diversity is a topical issue across Europe. The lecture focused on the role of religion in societies, the advantages, and disadvantages of diversity, and ask how (secular) society should relate to religion. To answer the question the lecture first gave an overview of the history of freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is one of the most basic fundamental rights, which has a close connection to human dignity. The nature of this right is twofold: on the one hand, religion is very personal; everyone is free to choose what beliefs to adopt, how to practice their religion, if they practice it at all. On the other hand, religious freedom also extends to classical private life. Faith is not simply a reflection on life, the world, or anything supernatural; rather, it is a strong belief that defines identity. Faith leads to actions, habits, behaviour, which obviously manifest in the public sphere. Consequently, the law must put religion in context; in what way people can manifest their religion in public, whether there are any limits to this manifestation. Like all other fundamental rights, freedom of religion is linked to social needs. Religion, reformation and counter-reformation, secularisation, and the intense globalisation of the late 20th century have all influenced this right. The presentation explored the reasons for the different models of church-state relations; how church-state, secular and cooperative models see the relationship. The presentation assessed the differences between religious belief and religious culture.
Finally, the presentation put the question of how religion and culture relate to each other. This is particularly important in Hungary, whose constitution refers to Christian culture. Constitutions do not operate in a vacuum, but are linked to other basic units of society, such as culture. The Fundamental Law attaches particular importance to the reference to culture, to Christian culture, and there is even a very strong choice of values, both in the National Avowal and in the individual provisions. But the question is what practical significance all this has. The passages in the National Avowal that begin “we are proud” and ’recognise’ Christianity is intended to place the constitution in a social context, but they only historically highlight Christianity, otherwise they do not elevate Christianity above other religions. The protection of Christian culture is presented as a constitutional objective. The most interesting question is whether the right of parents to educate their children on the basis of Christian culture is restricted. In my opinion, certainly not in practice: parents should not be obliged to educate their children in a Christian spirit. The dividing line between Christian culture and religion is whether a certain behaviour requires a conscientious conviction. To take a common example, when a Buddhist goes to a monastery, his purpose is to express religious reverence (worship). As a tourist, a Christian may also go to a Buddhist temple and appreciate its cultural grandeur, but not show religious respect. The situation is similar to Christian culture. The state can recognise and protect these phenomena as works of art and folk customs, but it cannot demand religious respect. In terms of church attendance, Hungary can hardly be considered a Christian country. Christian culture is another matter. Most secular traditions in the country have Christian roots: Christmas and Easter are celebrated even by those who do not follow the Christian religion. Those who don’t really believe that God is the keeper of the country also sing the national anthem, which is originally a prayer to God. In the country’s coat of arms, the cross has taken on a secular meaning. Hungary is therefore culturally Christian. In fact, there is currently no alternative to Christian culture. Other religions have not taken root and spread to the same extent. Only a secular, atheistic culture could be a possibility, but there is no historical tradition in Hungary that would be a ‘competitor’ to Christian culture.
The presentation was aimed at law students from different countries. Besides Hungarian law students from Pázmány Péter Catholic University, students from other countries (France, Germany, Italy, Ireland) were also present. The lecture was open to all, the link was sent to the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law in advance.
Questions and answers:
Questions have been raised about the role of religion in society. What makes a country religious? Are there differences between European countries in terms of religion? Is there a general or at least European standard?
The presentation concluded that, like many other rights, religious freedom is “glocal” in the sense that, despite the universal interpretation and common rules in international agreements, each country interprets this right differently. There is a clear link between religion and culture, yet they are different things.
The research was carried out within the framework of the Central European Professors’ Network coordinated by the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law.