EGMR: Forthcoming Grand Chamber judgment on the right of access to court of a pastor concerning his claim for compensation against the Hungarian Calvinist Church

The European Court of Human Rights will be delivering a Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Károly Nagy v. Hungary (application no. 56665/09) at a public hearing on 14 September 2017 at 10.00 a.m. in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg. The case concerned a pastor’s pecuniary claim against the Reformed Church of Hungary following his removal from service.

Principal facts and complaints

The applicant, Károly Nagy, is a Hungarian national who was born in 1951 and lives in Gödöllő (Hungary).

Mr Nagy was pastor of the Reformed Church of Hungary. 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 Mr Nagy’s claim could not be enforced before domestic courts. 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 Mr Nagy’s claim had no basis in civil law.

Mr Nagy complains about the Hungarian courts’ refusal to deal with a pecuniary claim stemming from his service as a pastor of the reformed Church of Hungary. He relies in particular on Article 6 § 1 (right of access to court) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Procedure

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 19 October 2009.

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.

On 15 December 2015 the applicant requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber under Article 43 (referral to the Grand Chamber) and on 2 May 2016 the panel of the Grand Chamber accepted that request. A hearing took place on 12 October 2016.

Press release ECHR 270 (2017) 07/09/2017

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