Polish Court Clears Way for Blasphemy Conviction

Polish Court Clears Way for Blasphemy Conviction November 2, 2012

If you think that support for blasphemy laws comes only from Muslims and that such prosecutions only take place in Muslim countries, you’re wrong. Christians also support such laws in many countries in the world, including Poland, where a rock musician is on trial for blasphemy for ripping up a copy of the Bible during a performance. And that country’s high court has now ruled that intention is irrelevant; if he hurt the feelings of Christians in the country, he committed blasphemy.

Poland’s Supreme Court opened the way on Monday for a blasphemy verdict against a rock musician who tore up a Bible on stage, a case that has pitted deep Catholic traditions against a new desire for free expression.

Adam Darski, front man with a heavy metal group named Behemoth, ripped up a copy of the Christian holy book during a concert in 2007, called it deceitful and described the Roman Catholic church as “a criminal sect”…

The Supreme Court was asked to rule on legal arguments thrown up by the musician’s trial in a lower court on charges of offending religious feelings.

It said a crime was committed even if the accused, who uses the stage name Nergal, did not act with the “direct intention” of offending those feelings, a court spokeswoman said.

That interpretation closed off an argument used by lawyers for Darski, who said he had not committed a crime because he did not intend to offend anyone.

The lower court will now decide if he is guilty. The maximum sentence is two years in jail, under Poland’s criminal code. However, it is extremely rare for anyone convicted of this kind of crime in Poland to serve prison time.

Poland is 93% Catholic and the Catholic Church has enormous influence in that country. We’ve seen similar prosecutions for blasphemy lately in Russia and Greece, so the problem of blasphemy laws is as much a reality in Christian countries as it is in Muslim countries. Here’s an ironic statement from Pope Benedict XVI:

In a society that rightly values personal liberty, the Church needs to promote at every level of her teaching – in catechesis, preaching, seminary and university instruction – an apologetics aimed at affirming the truth of Christian revelation, the harmony of faith and reason, and a sound understanding of freedom, seen in positive terms as a liberation both from the limitations of sin and for an authentic and fulfilling life. In a word, the Gospel has to be preached and taught as an integral way of life, offering an attractive and true answer, intellectually and practically, to real human problems. The “dictatorship of relativism”, in the end, is nothing less than a threat to genuine human freedom, which only matures in generosity and fidelity to the truth.

Ah yes, society “rightly values personal liberty” — until someone uses that liberty to offend the delicate sensibilities of Catholics. And if someone is actually advocating that they have freedom of speech to offend others — by telling gay people they’re an abomination, for instance — but demand that those who offend them be punished by the state, is that not the very definition of a dictatorship of relativism?

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