Fighting Discrimination

Christian Nationalists See Illiberal Hungary As A Model For America

  Ethan Magistro

In a recent interview on the right-wing, religious television outlet Victory News, self-designated “historian” and evangelical propagandist David Barton cheered the passing of an anti-LGBTQ law in Hungary. The law, which bans discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools and further hamstrings the waning media freedoms in the country, was applauded by Barton as lining up with “traditional biblical values.”

This kind of law is par for the course in Hungary under Viktor Orban, the state’s prime minister. Since 2010, when Fidesz, the current governing party, swept to power on a Christian nationalist platform, Orban and the party have reconstructed the country as an “illiberal democracy” of far-right Christian values and ideals.

In 2011, when Fidesz created a new Hungarian constitution, it redefined marriage as being only between a man and woman. In 2020, the party amended the constitution to ban same-sex couples from adopting children. The nation cites Christian persecution as “the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time” and has worked to keep non-Christians out of the country. This mentality appeals to religious extremists like Barton and his lawmaker allies. For them, Hungary’s laws serve as the perfect model for what they want in the United States.

It would be misguided to see Hungary’s flirtation with Christian nationalism as solely an attempt to have God “bless the nation,” as Barton suggests. In the past decade, Orban and Fidesz have done more than just introduce theocratic laws that harm others. They have gutted Hungary’s democracy, transforming it into a one-party state in all but name. Fidesz has used constitutional amendments to prop up party loyalists, pack the courts and erode judicial independence. Among other mafia-esque maneuvers, the party has gerrymandered the country so much that it makes REDMAP – a U.S. Republican strategy to increase the party’s power in Congress through gerrymandering – look like child’s play.

This crusade against liberalism under the banner of Christian nationalism has found fans in the United States. In a 2019 speech, Donald Trump thanked Orban for being “great with respect to Christian communities.” Orban was happy to stand with Trump and “protect and help Christian communities all around the world.” Trump even celebrated Hungary’s creation of barriers on its eastern front to keep immigrants and non-Christians out of the country, something Trump sought for the U.S.-Mexico border. Barton and other Christian nationalists idolize what Orban has done to Hungary. They want to see the same laws come to fruition in the United States.

It’s shocking to see how Barton seems unconcerned about the waning media freedoms in Hungary, which the anti-LGBTQ law would further curb. Fidesz influences much of Hungary’s media outlets already. According to Reporters Without Borders, a freedom-of-press watchdog, Hungary’s media freedom ranking has fallen a whopping 33 places in the past eight years. But values of freedom and equality, which most Americans cherish, are mere roadblocks to be removed in the eyes of Orban and his admirers in America’s Religious Right.

Orban has shattered democratic guardrails in Hungary to construct a state that infuses its laws with far-right Christianity merged with nationalism. Back on our own shores, religious extremists are eagerly taking notes.

Photo of the Hungarian parliament by Anund Knutsen

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