The applicant, Károly Nagy, is a Hungarian national who was born in 1951 and lives in Gödöllő (Hungary). Mr Nagy was pastor of the Hungarian Calvinist Church. In June 2005, disciplinary proceedings were brought against him for being reported in a local newspaper as saying that State subsidies had been paid unlawfully to a Calvinist boarding school, and his service was immediately suspended and eventually terminated with effect from 1 May 2006 following a decision by the ecclesiastical courts.
Mr Nagy then brought proceedings before both the labour and civil courts. Both sets of proceedings were ultimately discontinued on the ground that the case concerned an ecclesiastical matter in which the courts had no jurisdiction. The labour courts discontinued the proceedings in December 2006, on the ground that the dispute concerned Mr Nagy’s service as a pastor and therefore the provisions of Labour Law were not applicable in his case. That decision was upheld on appeal in April 2007. Mr Nagy’s civil-law claim was also ultimately discontinued in May 2009, the Supreme Court concluding that there was no contractual relationship between Mr Nagy and the Calvinist Church and therefore his claim had no basis in civil law.
Mr Nagy complains about the Hungarian courts’ refusal to hear his claim for compensation on the merits, alleging that he had been denied access to a court merely on account of his position as a Calvinist pastor. He relies in particular on Article 6 § 1 (right of access to court) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In its Chamber judgment of 1 December 2015, the European Court of Human Rights held, by four votes to three, that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. The Chamber noted in particular that, although the Hungarian Supreme Court had held that the State courts had had no jurisdiction to examine Mr Nagy’s claim, it had in fact examined the claim in the light of the relevant domestic legal principles of contract law and found that there was no contractual relationship between Mr Nagy and the Calvinist Church. Mr Nagy could not therefore argue that he had been deprived of the right to a determination of the merits of his claim.
Press release ECHR 305 (2016) 30/09/2016