UNITED SIKHSWinner of the Sikhs and Charities Award
Aug 24, 2011
9th Bhadon (Samvat 543 Nanakshahi)
Community Update
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UNITED SIKHS Urges Prime Minister of Hungary to
Protect, Not Suppress, Religious Freedoms



Hungary, Europe: At 1.a.m. on July 12th, 2011, the Hungarian Parliament passed new legislation regarding religious rights entitled "The Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities" ("the Religion Law"), which has effectively become the most oppressive law  affecting religious freedoms in all of Europe. By passing this law, the Parliament of Hungary contradicted European Court of Human Rights decisions, which prohibit this type of legislation. Now that the Religion law has passed in Parliament, the law is in the hands of the President, who may either sign it, or send it back to Parliament. If President Pál Schmitt signs the Religion Law, hundreds of religious organizations will be torn apart from their status as religious communities and will be “de-registered” as religious organizations.

"UNITED SIKHS, the Sikh community worldwide, and specifically the European Sikh community, are deeply concerned by this law, because it will cause minority faiths to be targeted and stripped of their status as religious entities."[1] A provision currently under the Religion Law will "de-register" over three hundred minority faiths, and only fourteen churches will retain their registered religion status, along with the rights associated with that status. The Religion Law states that after a religion is "de-registered," it will lose status as a religious organization if the religion is not "re-registered" -a process that requires a minority religious community to go through burdensome proceedings, including showing that the religion has been organized in Hungary for at least 20 years and has at least 1,000 members. Furthermore, there is a requirement of a two-thirds vote by Parliament for re-registration, which effectively subjects all minority faiths to a voting based ban on religious freedom and denial of religious rights.

The newly passed legislation also includes a very narrow definition of "religious activities" based on Judeo-Christian concepts; however, these concepts are not in agreement with the broad definition of religion which is acknowledged by many authorities, including those whose standards the Religion Law would be breaching. These authorities include the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations.
The Religion Law "effectively puts up a STOP sign in front of all those who adhere to religious traditions that do not have a longstanding history in Hungary, and announces to those who seek to exercise their basic freedoms under the laws of the European Union that they are unwelcome, and if they enter Hungary, their identity as adherents of a minority faith will not be recognized."[2] This law represents a serious setback for religious freedom in Hungary. For more information about this law, click here and here.

The UNITED SIKHS legal team works tirelessly to secure the religious freedom rights of Sikhs throughout the world. This letter writing campaign regarding the Religion Law in Hungary is but one example of our international religious freedom advocacy work. Past advocacy campaigns have included working to get the Kirpan ban lifted at Amritsar Airport (for more information click here), advocacy work regarding the forcible turban removal by law enforcement in Mohali (for more information click here), and the publication of our 3rd Global Sikh Civil & Human Rights Report, which monitors religious freedoms conditions as they relate to Sikhs in 29 countries (to view this report click here).

What can YOU do?
  • Take a look at the calendar of events surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11 below. Please show your support by attending these events, also consider participating in these events to provide a Sikh perspective, and to honor the victims of 9/11 and promote a peaceful tomorrow:
    • Unheard Voices of 9/11: Community Hearings Hosted by Sikh Coalition from 1pm-4pm and on Saturday August 27th in San Francisco.  Join this important discussion on the impact of 9/11 on the rights and liberties of Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs.
    • National Week of Action: Reflecting on Our Loss and Reclaiming Our Rights Hosted by Rights Working Group from September 11th -17th across the country, click here to view a map of events and find out more about how to get involved.
    • An America for All of Us Campaign led by South Asian Americans Leading Together, click here to view events taking place across the country and find out more about how to get involved.
    • Prepare New York is a coalition of interfaith organizations who are hosting a series of events surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, click here to learn more and get involved in these events.
    • New York Civil Liberties Union Panel Discussion on the meaning of 9/11 taking place Wednesday September 7th from 10am to noon at the New York County Lawyers' Association at 14 Vesey St.
    • New York Civil Liberties Union 9/11 Memorial on  Thursday, Sept. 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the corner of Church Street and Park Place.
    • Inter-Faith Conference at Georgetown University from Sept. 8 to Sept. 10th. RSVP Required.
  • Would you like to volunteer and work on religious freedoms issues? Contact law-usa@unitedsikhs.org
  • Have you or someone you know been deprived of the right to practice their faith freely? If so, e-mail the UNITED SIKHS legal team at law-usa@unitedsikhs.org
  • Participate in education and awareness efforts about Sikhs and Sikhism. For ideas, tools, and more information on how to get involved, contact us at the e-mail address above and fill out our volunteer form by clicking here.

Volunteer with UNITED SIKHS, and Donate to our civil rights advocacy projects.

[1] Hansdeep Singh-Letter to Hungary’s Prime Minister; Re: Hungarian Parliament Seeks to Suppress Religious Minorities in Contravention of European & International Law
[2] Hansdeep Singh-Letter to Hungary’s Prime Minister; Re: Hungarian Parliament Seeks to Suppress Religious Minorities in Contravention of European & International Law

Issued by:

Ilana Ofgang
Legal Fellow
(888) 243-1690

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Protect Our Identity (POI) is an ongoing international campaign launched by UNITED SIKHS in August 2010 . It focuses on the need to protect the Sikh community's right to express its religious identity.  Initiatives under the POI campaign include:
  • Right to Turban
  • Airport Security in European Union and United States
  • Anti-Bullying Initiatives
  • Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Pakistan
  • Equality in Employment
  • Right to Kakaars
  • Recognition of Sikhs as a Religion and Ethnicity in UK and US Census, and Raising Awareness of Sikhs and Sikhism to reduce acts of violence and xenophobia against Sikhs.
UNITED SIKHS is currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers who are willing to spread the message of the campaign within their own communities. To join or contribute to the campaign, volunteer or donate to UNITED SIKHS.
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