Another Reason to Love the First Amendment

Another Reason to Love the First Amendment January 20, 2012

Here’s a very disturbing case out of Poland, where a singer has been fined by the courts for expressing doubt about the validity of the Bible during an interview. Apparently, hurting the feelings of the religious is a crime in that country:

Dorota Rabczewska, a singer who uses the stage name Doda, said in a 2009 interview that she doubted the Bible “because it’s hard to believe in something that was written by someone drunk on wine and smoking some herbs.”

A Warsaw court ordered her Monday to pay a fine of 5,000 zlotys ($1,450) for offending religious feelings.

But it seems they make this weird distinction:

The case comes months after another Polish court let off a death metal performer, Adam Darski, who tore a Bible during a 2007 performance. It deemed his act artistic expression.

So if she’d just put her thoughts into a song, that would be legal; saying it in an interview makes it illegal. Bizarre. And wrong either way.

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  • loren

    So does that mean in Poland, the interview comments would become legal if they were autotuned?

  • Olav

    Poland is a seriously weird country, but there are some developments.

    It might be interesting to the readership here to follow the leftwing libertarian member of parliament, Janusz Palikot:

    Polish MP ‘lights up’ for legal marijuana

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    So does that mean in Poland, the interview comments would become legal if they were autotuned?

    In any sane society, autotuning anything would be illegal.

  • Chris from Europe

    Similar laws are still on the books even in Western European countries. But, as in a 2005 case in Greece, such convictions are reversed by higher courts. Yet the singer apparently doesn’t plan to appeal(?!).

    Oh, by the way, what do you think about the situation in Hungary?

  • savagemutt

    Oh, by the way, what do you think about the situation in Hungary?

    I think he needs to stay in Jersey.

  • laurentweppe

    Oh, by the way, what do you think about the situation in Hungary?

    Simple: Orban lost elections once and decided that because he cannot win everytime, then democracy sucks and therefore he’s been gerrymandering the districts of his country to the point where he’s never going to lose his majority anymore and firing every judge he can fire to replace them with Fidesz loyalists.

    He’s basically what would be the Tea Party without a super-ego: the guy is not even trying to hide the fact that he’s rigging the elections and the judiciary, acting like a diva having a temper tantrum.

  • sosw

    My guess is that this is pretty much an arbitrary decision by a specific court that can and should be appealed. Comparing it to a decision by a different court isn’t necessarily relevant.

  • laurentweppe

    Not only can it be appealed, but in cases like that, if the person condemned does not yield, it eventually ends up in the European Court of Human Rights which will cancel the original decision in virtually every case.

  • captainchaos

    Poland is an extremely religious country, so it does not surprise me that some judges there have trouble keeping religion out of their work. This would almost certainly be reversed on appeal, but I’m reading that she doesn’t intend to appeal, which seems strange.

    My own country also still has a blasphemy lay on the books, even though only three people have been convicted under it in 80 years, to fines of a few guilders. The last one was in 1954. Even Gerard Reve, a famous Dutch author, was not convicted when he wrote that he hoped that God would be incarnated as a donkey, so he could gently fuck it.

    Ever so often there is a political discussion about abolishing this ridiculous and impotent law, but somehow they never quite manage it.

  • We have this idiotic law against “offending religious feelings”, enforced by pro-Church MPs shortly after the fall of communism in Poland and never repealed since. It isn’t, strictly speaking, a blasphemy law, but pro-Church zealots quite often treat it as such (by pretending to take any act of “blasphemy” as a personal offence). Needless to say, this “crime” is so vaguely defined that court decisions are inconsistent. Symbolic as the fine is for a pop star, Doda hasn’t paid it yet. She did appeal but the original verdict was upheld; now she may take her case to the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, and I hope she will.