The opposition-led Budapest Mayor’s Office dismissed one of its employees after news emerged of one of his blog posts in which he called infant baptism an illegitimate practice, arguing it should be banned.
The environmental expert was working as an employee of the climate department at the Budapest Mayor’s Office since December 2020.
Gáspár Békés was fired after news about one of his posts in which he argued that baptism for children should be banned, surfaced in pro-government media.
“From a legal perspective, baptism is obviously illegitimate”, because parents violate children’s rights to freedom of deciding on their religious affiliation, Gáspár Békés wrote in a 2018 post of the Hungarian Atheist Society.
“We need to understand and make it understood that the child is not the property of the parent, but a citizen. If we do not accept this, then we cannot criticize the breatharian, the anti-vaxxers, or parents who believe in female circumcision either since then it is relative who can do what with their children and the lines become blurred,” Békés argued.
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The Christian Democrats (KDNP), Hungary’s smaller ruling party, then called on opposition Mayor Gergely Karácsony to “dismiss his expert who wants to ban the baptism of children” from his office immediately.
“This anti-Christian pathological hatred evokes the darkest times of the Rákosi Era,” deputy PM Zsolt Semjén, the leader of KDNP said in reaction to the incident.
Due to his public stance on the ban of children’s baptism and some other opinions he had shared well before he was hired, the Mayor’s Office first distanced itself from Békés, then on Tuesday terminated his employment.
The expert reacted to his dismissal on social media.
“In my opinion, they [Mayor Karácsony’s Office] succumbed to pressure from the fundamentalist Christian press attacking my open atheism. As a result, freedom of expression- press and conscience- have been seriously violated.”
In a later interview, Békés called his dismissal a panic-driven political decision and said he was considering taking legal action.
Several politicians of the ruling parties welcomed Békés’s ousting.
Fidesz MEP Tamás Deutsch shared an article about the decision with the comment “Respect.” Meanwhile, Deputy PM Zsolt Semjén wrote that the Christian Democrats welcome Gergely Karácsony’s decision to remove his Christianity- insulting “expert.”
In contrast, many on the political left were outraged by the decision. For example, jurist Tamás Lattman who came forward in 2018 to become the PM candidate of leftist parties, complained on social media that “the so-called” opposition “did not stand up for Békés in any way.” He also labeled the decision “a spineless” move.
Featured photo via Békés’s Facebook page