Hungary: ‘We Want Religious Freedom!’

BUDAPEST—On January 20, members of the Church of Scientology, their friends and supporters marched through the streets of Hungary’s capital in protest of anti-religious and discriminatory actions by the national government.

Scientologists protest in Budapest January 2018

Scientologists from many nations have marched previously in Budapest to draw attention to what they have described as bigoted and reactionary treatment of religions. STAND has covered these events.

In this, the third and most recent demonstration in support of religious freedom, the greatest number of attendees participated and their march traversed the longest route—more than four miles.

Never ones to back down when facing human rights violations, Scientologists view abuse of any religion at the hands of government as intolerable. And they are not alone in pointing out Hungary’s problems. A recent report by the prestigious nongovernmental think tank Freedom House, for example, revealed that Hungary has become the weakest democracy among all countries in the European Union, citing it as an example of a nation “sliding into authoritarian rule.

Based on 2017 data, Hungary scored 72 points, lowest among the 28 nations of the European Union.

Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2018, Democracy in Crisis evaluated the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories during the 2017 calendar year. Each country and territory was rated between 0 and 4 points with regard to 25 separate indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. These scores were used to determine the status of political rights and civil liberties.

Based on 2017 data, Hungary scored 72 points, lowest among the 28 nations of the European Union.

Against this backdrop, Scientologists—who have a long history of decrying human rights abuses—have demanded the Hungarian government stand true to the nation’s traditions and principles of freedom and democracy.

This most recent demonstration for religious freedom carried with it themes of religious discrimination in Hungary’s past, as reenacted by street performers.

The demonstration began with a speech by Hungarian actress and Scientologist, Timea Vojtilla, who then introduced actor Jeff Pomerantz, longtime Scientologist and human rights advocate. Pomerantz traveled from the United States, delivering an impassioned statement that conveyed why he made this second trip in support of the marchers and the paramount importance of religious freedom.

Church spokesperson Attila Miklovich reiterated the peaceful and humanitarian purpose of the demonstration.

The demonstrators chanted, “Vallási szabadságot akarunk!” (“We want religious freedom!”) and “A vallási Gyakorlat szabadságát akarjuk!” (“We want freedom for religious practice!”) as they marched toward Hero Square in the center of Budapest.

Approaching the square, demonstrators stopped in front of the infamous House of Terror Museum. During World War II, the Gestapo was located there and, following the war, the KGB took up residence.

House of Terror Museum

When the demonstrators paused at the House of Terror to reflect, its ominous presence seemed to show that its past had not been extinguished, with remnants of repression still seen in the current government.

Demonstrators continued their march to Hero Square, where reporters of national M1 TV filmed their arrival.

Timea Vojtilla closed the march by thanking all Hungarian participants and the many who had joined them from foreign lands. She read the Creed of the Church of Scientology, which begins as follows:

“We of the Church believe:

“That all men of whatever race, color or creed were created with equal rights;

“That all men have inalienable rights to their own religious practices and their performance….”

She paused long enough to allow participants to echo her words in their appeal for Hungary to return to the once-proud land where all religions enjoyed justice, respect, and freedom.