Nyíregyháza Fidesz members and the undersecretary overseeing churches invited church leaders of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county to an “informal” town hall discussion in the run-up to the April 8 national election, 444.hu reports.
Fidesz MP Győző Vinnai seeking re-election in the April 8 parliamentary election wrote about the meeting in a Facebook post: “With my fellow candidate Tünde Szabó, we invited clergy serving in our respective constituencies for an informal year starter discussion. Undersecretary overseeing churches Miklós Soltész also held a presentation.”
One of Fidesz’s few new candidates for the spring election, undersecretary overseeing sports Tünde Szabó also shared a Facebook post about the meeting: “I consider cooperation with church communities, common thinking, moving into the same direction especially important, since the church and religion play an enormous role in fostering physical and spiritual growth. Because of this, along with undersecretary Miklós Soltész, I participated in the meeting of prominent representatives of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county’s religious communities devoted to Christian values at the Nyíregyháza town hall with great pleasure.” The former Olympic silver-medalist swimmer Szabó who is now running as Fidesz’s candidate in Nyíregyháza, was the first Hungarian professional sportswoman to pose nude for Playboy in 2003.
Two weeks ago, Vicar Fr. László Németh of Hódmezővásárhely caused outrage among his parish when at the end of the Sunday mass he encouraged parishioners to vote for the Fidesz candidate in the mayoral by-election scheduled for the end of February. Németh stressed that churches have prospered greatly in recent years thanks to the generous contributions of the government. “Never since the Second World War have the Hungarian nation and Hungarian churches, not just the Catholic Church, had the opportunity to enjoy the kind of support that they now receive from the government — in education, health care, social services, publications, and the list goes on,” Németh told the congregation.
At the end of 2017, the government distributed more than USD 413 million to churches by decree, that is, outside the normal budgetary process. According to the Fiscal Responsibility Institute, church-run schools also receive three times more funding than public schools.
The government is very keen on demonstrating its financial goodwill toward politically-loyal churches, especially in the run-up to the national election. In early January pro-government media was eager to showcase the government’s decision to gift the Hungarian Baptist Church a new building in Budapest and HUF 400 million (USD 1.6 million) for renovations.