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Case Notes

The Constitutional Court of Hungary on the Borderlines of Blasphemy

A Note on Two Recent Cases

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Keywords blasphemy, freedom of speech, protection of dignity, protection of religion, Hungary
Authors Balázs Schanda
AbstractAuthor's information

    Blasphemy used to be a criminal offence in traditional legal systems. Although offending the transcendent is not criminalized in most Western legal systems, free speech must respect the dignity of others. Religious conviction constitutes an inherent part of dignity. The protection against hate speech offending the dignity of members i.e. of religious communities may include criminal sanctions in extreme cases. The new Civil Code of Hungary (2013) enables the bringing of a civil lawsuit for hate speech. After years of litigation the first two cases where litigants claimed their dignity violated by offensive images have reached the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court guaranteed protection of religious identity on the one hand, on the other hand, it upheld the freedom of political speech even when using a religious symbol. Degrading religion offends all members of the religious community, criticism of the religiosity of public actors, however, is protected by the freedom of speech.


Balázs Schanda
Balázs Schanda: professor of law, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest; justice, Constitutional Court of Hungary, Budapest.
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