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Hungarian atheist fired because of his views on baptism

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 16 februari 2021

On 2 February Gáspár Békés was fired from the Climate & Environment Department of Budapest Mayor’s Office because in a blog post from 2018 he criticized baptism performed on babies and children. Humanists International calls upon the Budapest Mayor’s Office to review this decision, since it infringes on Gáspár’s right to freedom of expression and to hold personal views that have no bearing on his job.

Gáspár Békés is a member of the Hungarian Atheist Association, an Associate of Humanists International. Since December 2020, Gáspár used to work as a strategic environmental expert for the Office of Budapest Mayor, Gergely Karácsony.

Gáspár Békés was fired last week after news emerged of one of his blog posts in which he called infant baptism “an illegitimate practice based on constitutional, international law and theological foundations”, arguing it should be banned in the future. The decision to fire Gáspár was taken in response to the call of Zsolt Semjén – leader of the Christian Democrats (KDNP), Hungary’s smaller ruling party – who accused Gáspár of “anti-Christian pathological hatred”.

Since then, Gáspár Békés received death threats, abusive emails and worrying comments on his social media accounts. The day before being fired by the Head of the Budapest Mayor’s Office, the same Office distanced itself from Gáspár’s view and issued an official reprimand against him.

Tamás Waldmann, President of the Hungarian Atheist Association, said:

“Viktor Orbán’s proclaimed illiberal Christian democracy regularly runs a hate campaign against all minorities who do not fit into the white, Christian, heterosexual ideal. Beyond refugees, Muslims, Roma, Jews, people of color, LGBTQI+ people, atheists have been systematically the target of Fidesz politicians and the state & party press, which is manually controlled by Orbán.

“Pro-government journalists have called atheism the main opposition of the system and claimed that atheists are sick and disabled; the president of parliament has even stated that atheists are traitors who should never be allowed to come to power again, and have to be ultimately defeated.

“We are already accustomed to this, but it is infinitely frustrating that the free and liberal Budapest led by the opposition – whose leaders themselves have repeatedly been the target of the government media’s false expiration campaigns – do not stand up for freedom of conscience, expression and press when a leading figure of the humanist-atheist movement is prosecuted, and instead they decide to cooperate with religious fundamentalists to ruin a young expert’s professional and personal life.”

Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey

Elizabeth O’ Casey, Humanists International’s Director of Advocacy, commented:

“The denial of Gáspár’s legitimate right to free expression should be seen against a backdrop of years of action by the Hungarian Government to instrumentalise a deeply conservative understanding of religion in order to promote an exclusivist, intolerant and dogmatic nationalist identity – that it seems even some in opposition are pandering to. For years, the populists in Hungary have been promoting a morality based on ‘traditional’ Christian ‘family values’ to the exclusion of those who dissent or dare to question dogma. Sadly, Gáspár’s experience is yet another example of the rapid erosion of human rights and due process in the Country.”

 


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