Sándor Németh, leader of the charismatic pentecostal Faith Church (Hit Gyülekezete), denies his church is in cahoots with Fidesz. Németh’s recent remarks to 24.hu mark the latest in a series of attempts by the church and its television station, ATV, to refute claims made by current and former ATV employees that the church is cooperating with the government.
In an interview published by 24.hu last week, Németh denied having made a pact with the government, claiming he practices “value-based cooperation with worldly powers.”
This “value-based cooperation with worldly powers” has become increasingly evident in recent years. Staff working at ATV have complained about strong editorial bias at the television station and what they perceive to be a marked departure from the independent commercial television station’s previous leftwing editorial slant.
Furthermore, church leaders, Németh included, and some connected to the Faith Church business empire, have taken an active role in promulgating messages to the public in line with Fidesz political propaganda. Coincidentally, ATV has also been the beneficiary of copious state-advertising revenues in recent years.
“The state advertisements are very important to the finances of [ATV],” Németh told 24.hu last week, adding that no gesture had ever been made toward the government that would have compromised ATV’s independence. (In late December, Faith Church received almost USD 3 million from the state for “church development.”)
Another significant change at ATV over the past two years is that at least three prominent hosts – Olga Kálmán, Sándor Friderikusz and Antónia Mészáros – have left the channel. Since then, ATV programming has replaced a number of talk shows devoted to discussion of public issues with tabloid-like programs.
For decades, the Faith Church has been accused of being a business church, that is, a large, profitable enterprise operating under the guise of a faith group. As reported by 444.hu in mid-January, Németh managed to transform the church into a conglomerate by constructing a “a group of companies – apart from the church – over the past thirty years, [whose activities range from] publishing, education, and sports clubs.”
Despite not being a historical church in Hungary, the Faith Church did manage to secure state-recognition from Fidesz with the controversial (and unlawful) Church Law of 2011 — a remarkable last-minute development given the church’s troublesome relationship with Fidesz since the 1990s.
Németh also told 24.hu about an encounter he once had with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at a football match in Hamburg:
“Orbán told me once at a football match that if we [the Faith Church] have committed any crimes, we should not expect mercy from him. I told him that I have no idea what he is talking about, that my conscience is clear…. Aside from this, all he asked that I leave his family members alone who are not public figures. I told him that our worldview prevents us from interfering in the private lives of people.”
Some other quotes from the interview:
- “I know the Bible and am aware of the prophecies. We read in chapter 9 in the book of Daniel’s prophecy that the time for Armageddon will come, when humanity will engage in the last world war. This will obviously be nuclear war. I would like to believe that this will not be caused by Europe, but this is the conclusion I have arrived to after everything I have read in the Bible since 1976 and all the discussions I have had with individuals who are much more knowledgeable of the Bible than I am. We must admit to ourselves that Europe and Germany will once again play a negative role in history. But let me be wrong! I will apologize if there will not be anything more serious than Nazism, which was also born in the west.”
- “I do not believe that totalitarianism is a product of liberalism. But I do think that liberalism will open gaps in western countries and culture which, for lack of self-defense will be exploited by the world’s darkest powers.”
- “I judge liberalism for moral reasons because it seeks to enshrine the opposite of the Ten Commandments in law and force [these laws] on society. This is what the Obama era was all about. The tone of ultra-liberalism nowadays is reminiscent of the intolerance of the communist, Bolshevik dictatorship era.”