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Gáspár Békés is a secular activist and a member of the Hungarian Atheist Society in Hungary, who was recently a target of a state-funded defamation smear campaign by Orbán’s illiberal government, which resulted in his highly publicized termination at Budapest city hall and many threatening messages.
Gáspár Békés is an interdisciplinary environmental professional, who has earned four university degrees from world-class institutions. Outside of his career, he is also an accomplished advocate for youth and secular rights, with 5+ years of experience. Besides being a member in a number of organizations, planning many rallies, participating in conferences and representing worthy causes in media over 100 times, he is an accredited journalist as well, who has published over 50 articles in various newspapers and blogs, achieving a readership of more than 300 000, and he even founded a youth politics newspaper to better amplify youth voices. He is also a public founding member of the Hungarian Atheist Association.
One of the articles he wrote in 2018 was on the legality of baptisms, in which he argued that based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Constitution, children should have the right to choose at a responsible age whether they want to participate in such an act or not, as it is their civil liberty, not their guardians'. In addition, he highlighted that the Bible itself only mentions adult baptisms, as they should be carried out of free will, a cornerstone of Christian faith.
In December of 2020, Gáspár joined Budapest City Hall's Climate and Environmental Affairs Department as a strategic expert. In January, an article was published in a fundamentalist Christian online newspaper called vasarnap.hu (the portal of the governing Christian Democratic Party) claiming that he has insulted Christians 3 years ago by wanting to ban baptisms. This and other articles following were published by the vast media empire of the government, which even launched paid ads to defame Gáspár. Most of the articles contained outright lies and deliberate misinterpretations. The leader of the government coalition’s minority Christian Democratic Party demanded Gáspár’s termination. Following this, City Hall issued a statement distancing itself from its employee, and stating that he was reprimanded, and fired him the next day. This was without due process or inquiry. Gáspár’s immediate superiors vehemently protested the termination, which was not discussed with them. He received a 96% performance score at his last review.
Gáspár has already garnered the support of Hungary’s largest legal watchdog organization, the Society for Civil Rights (TASZ), which is representing him in court against city hall regarding his termination. His reputation, however has been severely damaged both by the national and local governments, who have shamefully cooperated in terminating a highly-skilled employee with an excellent performance record; thus, Gáspár needs to launch lawsuits for defamation against the media outlets and city hall as well to restore his good reputation. For this, he needs to hire at least one specialized lawyer.
All donations will be collected through the Hungarian Atheist Society, an officially registered NGO in Hungary (registration number: 01-02-0017073).
Any donations exceeding the original goal will strictly go towards supporting further legal action on behalf of Atheists who have been discriminated against.
Gáspár’s public termination also means that his chances of finding work domestically have diminished severely, especially considering the pandemic at hand, thus he is in a difficult position. Therefore, we also welcome any information on job offers related to environmental policy/research/security, international relations/security and sustainable cities, as now he is searching for a new job abroad.
Humanists International, European Humanist Federation and the Norwegian Humanist Association- Human-Etisk Forund have already pledged their support to Gáspár, as well as prominent Hungarian progressive theologian Rita Perintfalvi PhD.
Gáspár case fits well into a systemic crackdown on freedom of thought, conscience and press that has plagued the country since Viktor Orbán’s rise to power, who has dubbed the state an illiberal Christian democracy. Anyone who dares to speak up for diminishing secular rights is immediately and viciously attacked, and in this case, even the opposition-led city hall had folded to the demands of religious extremists who do not tolerate a difference in opinions. In order to halt this trend, we must not allow Gáspár’s case to serve as an example of successful intimidation. Despite everything, Gáspár is committed to fight for civil liberties, even though he is receiving death threats. We humbly ask you to support him and his quest for justice by donating to the Hungarian Atheist Society’s campaign.
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