The European Court of Human Rights decided that dismissed pastor of Hungarian Reformed Church had no arguable compensation claim under domestic law as he was employed under ecclesiastical law not civil law

On 14 September 2017 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (France) adopted a judgment in the case of Károly Nagy v. Hungary (application no. 56665/09) which dealt with the analysis of the legal relation between the ecclesiastical („church“) law and the civil („State“) law.


The European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of ten votes to seven, that the application was inadmissible.


The case concerned the compensation claim brought by Mr Károly Nagy, a pastor, following his dismissal by the Hungarian Reformed Church. The Hungarian courts rejected his claim as unenforceable. Mr Nagy’s claim was first dismissed by the labour courts on the basis of labour law. He then brought a civil action arguing that he had an agency contract with the Church. The domestic courts discontinued the proceedings, finding that the courts could not enforce any such claims as he was employed under ecclesiastical law not civil law.


In view of the overall legal framework in Hungary, the European Court of Human Rights found that Mr Nagy thus had no “right” which could be said, at least on arguable grounds, to be recognised under domestic law. Article 6 (right of access to a court) was therefore not applicable in the present case.


Commenting the judgment, the Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Council of Europe and to the European Institutions hegumen Philip Ryabykh, positively described the relevant decision of the Court in Strasbourg as “correct“ and „important for the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and for courts of the Council of Europe member-States“ as it defined some fundamental aspects of the principle of the church autonomy. Father Philip stated that by this decision the freedom of churches to regulate their own (internal) affairs without state interference was reaffirmed by the renowned international court.  Hegumen Philip further reminded that, even though the decision in the case of Károly Nagy v. Hungary  was adopted against Hungary, it became the part of the national legislation in all 47 Council of Europe member-States and therefore, for example, has to be taken to consideration by domestic courts dealing with similar cases.


The full text of the judgment is available in English and French in the HUDOC database of the European Court of Human Rights under the links:

English version: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-177070

French version: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-177136


The short summary of the case in English is available under the link: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=003-5838441-7437950


Tags: secularism 

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