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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.
Case Notes

Limitations of the Physical Expression of Opinion

Decision No. 14/2019. (IV. 17.) AB of the Constitutional Court of Hungary

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2020
Keywords freedom of expression, expression of opinion, Constitutional Court of Hungary, political freedom, conflict between fundamental rights
Authors Gábor Kurunczi
AbstractAuthor's information

    The present case note tries to answer the question whether Article IX of the Fundamental Law of Hungary protects the physical expression of opinion, by analyzing the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court. The protection of freedom of expression has been a priority for the Constitutional Court from the outset. In the 21st century, however, as far as freedom of expression is concerned, it is not enough for the Constitutional Court to rely solely on doctrines. Increasingly, courts are faced with cases where those expressing their opinion do not express their message in words, but in a physical way. And these acts (e.g. dousing a statue with paint or just painting a crack in a sidewalk in four colors) are very often in conflict with other fundamental rights (e.g. with the right to property), raising the question of the illegality of the action expressing the opinion. In 2019, the Constitutional Court dealt with three such cases. This case note analyzes the Decision No. 14/2019. (IV. 17.) AB of the Constitutional Court. In essence, the Constitutional Court had to answer three questions: (i) What are the criteria for deciding whether an act can be included in the constitutionally protected scope of freedom of expression (and how are the actions of the petitioners to be judged)? (ii) If an act can be included within the constitutionally protected scope of expression, how to balance it with other fundamental rights, in particular to the right to property? (iii) Where are the boundaries between constitutionally protected expressions and criminal acts? The aim of the present case note is to raise some new aspects to allow for further reflection on the topic.


Gábor Kurunczi
Gábor Kurunczi: visiting lecturer, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest; senior lecturer, National University of Public Service, Budapest.

András László Pap
Research Chair, Head of Department for the Study of Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre for Social Sciences Institute for Legal Studies, Budapest, Hungary, SASPRO-Marie Curie Fellow, Slovak Academy of Sciences Institute for Sociology, Bratislava, Slovakia, Professor of Law, National Public Service University, Budapest, Hungary, Adjunct (Recurrent Visiting) Professor, Central European University, Nationalism Studies Program, Budapest, Hungary
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