40 people felt offended by Michał G., who carried a reproduction of the image of the Virgin Mary in a rainbow halo during the Equality March in Częstochowa. The court found that his intentions had been deliberately distorted or misunderstood. – It is clear, and this requires special emphasis, that Michał G. only wanted to draw attention to the weighty problem of discrimination against non-heteronormative persons, in particular their place in the Church – this is how the judge justified the discontinuation of the proceedings.
During Equality March in Częstochowa in June 2019. , Michał G. carried a modified painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa. The original halos have been replaced by rainbow halos. He was accused of offending religious feelings (Article 196 of the Criminal Code). About 40 people were granted the status of aggrieved parties.
The prosecutor, auxiliary prosecutors and their attorney requested that the case be referred to a hearing. In turn, the representative of the Campaign Against Homophobia and the defender of the accused wanted the proceedings to be discontinued.
– I did not want to offend religious feelings. I am a believer and I just wanted to contribute to the public debate. I wanted to show the difficult situation of LGBT believers. My private views do not matter – said the accused in the court.
The district court in Częstochowa on September 24 discontinued the proceedings and ordered the State Treasury to pay the costs. The decision is not final.
– We will file a complaint, we will sue this decision. We absolutely do not agree with him – Paweł Szafraniec told us, the representative of the auxiliary prosecutors. – I have the impression that the judge reflected her view on the case more in the justification than she presented the legal arguments in this regard – he added.
The rainbow is a symbol of diversity, and Catholic, that is, universal
– The icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa is undoubtedly an object of religious worship – said judge Anna Pilarz in the justification of the decision. In her opinion, however, “interference with this image, consisting in affixing rainbow halos to both figures from the icon constituting the object of religious cult, and then presenting such altered images on the march” is not an insult or profanation “.
She reminded what a rainbow is as a symbol of LGBT. – This symbol, through its multi-color character, is to emphasize the diversity of this minority group. At the same time, it postulates the equality of all citizens before the law and the prohibition of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation. This is undoubtedly a positive message. The image of the Mother of God and the Child Jesus with rainbow halo is by no means offensive, hateful, contemptuous or vulgar, and its task is rather to indicate and emphasize diversity among the followers of the same Roman Catholic religion – says Pilarz.
The judge also recalled that “Catholicism” from Greek “means a whole, universality, and thus accessibility to all the faithful, including the accused who emphasizes his belonging to the Catholic Church.”
– In the opinion of the court, the previously discussed depiction of the Mother of God and the Child Jesus cannot be treated as a form of blasphemy. It was not the intention of the accused to insult or disregard the religious feelings of others. It is also impossible to assume that he predicted that it could have such an effect. It is clear, and this requires special emphasis, that Michał G. only wanted to draw attention to the important social problem of discrimination against non-heteronormative persons, in particular their place in the Church, by definition universal, to which he was entitled within the framework of his freedom of expression resulting from from article 54, paragraph 1, of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. The rainbow itself was supposed to refer to the idea of equality of all people – said the judge.
The court decided that Michał G. had the right to manifest his convictions, and his behavior did not fulfill the criteria of a prohibited act. Pilarz noted that his “intentions may have been deliberately distorted, which could be a manifestation of intolerance, if not discrimination against a minority group of LGBT people, or simply misinterpreted due to misunderstanding.”
KPH: There are many proceedings concerning offending religious feelings
Małgorzata Mączka-Pacholak, Mr. Michał’s defense attorney, welcomed the court’s ruling. – This justification presented by the court is exactly in line with the argumentation presented in the proceedings, including those conducted by the prosecutor’s office. The court found that no crime was committed and I think that what is also very important is that the court noticed that it could have happened that the defendant’s intentions were simply misinterpreted – she said in an interview with us.
Marcin Pawelec-Jakowiecki from Campania against Homophobia: – The court de facto shared the arguments of the association, which indicated that the alleged offense was not committed in this case. This case, like a number of other cases, is a beautiful stimulus for further considerations on the legitimacy of penalizing offense against religious feelings, or perhaps criminalizing at all, i.e. recognizing such behavior as a crime. This is another procedure of this type. There are really many such proceedings, but the important thing is that the court found that the rainbow in combination with the sacred symbolism does not offend religious objectivity.
Main photo source: TVN24