Leaders of Hungarian Jewish Synagogue’s Organization (MAZSIHISZ) expressed their strong disapproval at failure of President Laszlo Solyon to sign legislation that would make incitement of hatred as grounds for criminal action. They declined the president’s invitation to participate at an annual meeting of religious leaders. MAZSIHISZ responded to his invitation by saying, “We attend the annual meeting with great pleasure, but unfortunately, due to the current situation we cannot accept the president’s invitation.” There have been several attempts over the past few years to make hate speech a crime, but Hungary’s presidents and Supreme Court has expressed concern over wording of the proposed legislation. The law that he refused to sign allowed lawsuits to be filed against hate speakers not only by individuals who were mentioned in the speech, but also members of ethnic and religious groups.
There is little doubt Hungarian Jews have valid reasons to be concerned about hate speech, given the legacy of the Holocaust. However, the battle to end hatred and violence in the world will be won through speech, through education, and through respect for the integrity of all people. Legislating “correct speech” opens the door for as many problems as it solves.