Hungary: humanist takes case of unfair dismissal to Supreme Court

  • post Type / Humanists At Risk
  • Date / 21 June 2024

Hungarian humanist and founding member of the Hungarian Atheist Association, Gáspár Békés, has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court regarding his unfair dismissal from his position at Budapest City Hall. The move follows the Metropolitan Court of Appeal’s determination that Békés was lawfully dismissed owing to “scandalous” behavior that brought City Hall into disrepute.

Gáspár Békés at the World Humanist Congress 2023
Photo: Pavel Storozhuk, Norwegian Humanist Association

Founding member of the Hungarian Atheist Association, Gáspár Békés, has been fighting his dismissal from his job at Budapest City Hall since February 2021. Békés was fired for his secular journalism and activism.

On 5 March 2024, the Metropolitan Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Budapest City Hall thereby overturning a verdict handed down by the court of first instance that should be reinstated to his post and compensated for loss of earnings.

In reaching its judgment the Metropolitan Court of Appeal agreed with the determinations of the points of law made by the court of first instance (thereby supporting the legal arguments in defense of Békés). In particular, the courts agreed that a public official’s level of influence over policy and law should be taken into account. In the case at hand, it was acknowledged that in his position as an environmental protection officer, Békés did not have authority to influence decision-making. Additionally, as the statements that Békés made referred to matters outside of his area of professional expertise, they agreed that his personal beliefs would not influence public policy on the issues.

Such a determination should have been sufficient for the Metropolitan Court to uphold the ruling of the court of first instance in favor of Békés. However, the Metropolitan Court opined that the lower court had failed to sufficiently examine the weight of evidence against the Békés, determining that his actions exceeded the threshold where such a defense could be upheld. In order to make this determination, the Metropolitan Court of Appeal introduced new evidence, contrary to judicial procedure.

Gáspár Békés, founding member of the Hungarian Atheist Association

Gáspár Békés, founding member of the Hungarian Atheist Association, told Humanists International:

“After a fourth trial, all of city hall’s arguments supporting my termination have been rejected by the appeals court. In addition, the court stated that all the publications used as evidence to justify my termination did not violate the law, nor were they even offensive. Yet the court still ruled against me. They arbitrarily and illegally introduced new evidence and argumentation after the fact in order to reach their verdict, referring to a defamatory and factually false article written by a far-right portal’s neonazi journalist.

“I have therefore submitted my appeal to the Supreme Court, and filed complaints and criminal charges against the judges that made defamatory statements about me in the ruling.”

Humanists International believes that Gáspár Békés is being targeted solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression and thought, as a result of his activism to spread humanist values and critical thinking, and calls for the Hungarian authorities to investigate all threats against Békés and ensure his safety. Additionally, Humanists International calls on Budapest City Hall to reinstate Békés, and provide him with all due compensation.

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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