Constitutional Court ombudsman declares unconstitutional anti-Muslim, homophobic law

December 20, 2016

Hungary’s Ombudsman for Fundamental Rights László Székely has petitioned the Constitutional Court to annul the ordinance in the town of Ásotthalom banning Islamic religious or cultural practices and public displays of homosexuality, mno.hu reports. Earlier the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) had also requested that the court strike down the law.

The “preventative action package” was first proposed by László Toroczkai, Ásotthalom mayor and vice-chair of radical right-wing party Jobbik. The ordinance has been in effect in the southern Hungarian town near the Serbian border since November 24, and formally bans Muslim practices as a “defense against the forced mass resettlement [of migrants] by Brussels.” It reads:

  • It is forbidden to build a mosque or any faith-oriented building which would diminish the significance of our Catholic temple.
  • It is forbidden to perform a muezzin in public because it may disrupt the peace and may also provoke fear, alarm, and shock among the locals.
  • It is forbidden to partially or fully cover the entire body, face, and head in public. It is also forbidden to wear swimming attire that covers the entire body, including the so-called burkini.

According to the ombudsman, these measures are restrictive of constitutionally protected freedoms of religion. The muezzin “attests to a sacred behavior that is inextricably linked to the Islamic religion,” and covering the entire body is an expression of “conviction of conscience.” Székely said the ordinance makes the exercise of freedom of conscience and religion impossible, and therefore contradicts fundamental rights laid out in the constitution.

The ordinance also essentially bans public displays of homosexuality, stipulating that “it is forbidden to carry out any kind of propaganda in public which displays the institution of marriage in a manner that deviates from the Fundamental Law’s definition of marriage as being between a man and woman. This includes any public activity, performance, demonstrations, billboard, leaflet, or audio advertisement.”

Székely’s judgement of this portion of the ordinance is less definitive. “A part of freedom of expression is that anyone must be able to publicly express their opinion on any question, especially if that question is important to the entire society or a substantial part of it,” he said.

A court in Csongrád county, where Ásotthalom is located, declared a few days ago that the ordinance conflicts with several laws, including those protecting freedom of conscience and religion, and ensuring equal treatment. Mayor Toroczkai rejected the court’s decision, declaring that he is ready to go to any court to defend his town’s ordinance.