Poland is a country of continuous controversy. The two current opposers are dominating Christian community and the LGBT community. Christianity continues to discriminate and hate against the LGBT community and in an act of resistance, when the EU threatens to stop sending funds, the EU is accused of being intolerant of the Christian faith. With the leading Polish party PiS winning the presidential elections, hope is fading for the Polish LGBT community.
Poland can perhaps be seen as famous, or some people would say infamous, for its strong connection to the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism is deeply rooted into their culture, that many Poles view it as a part of their identity. As with many countries in Europe, Christianity has dominated, particularly in Poland for many centuries. However this brings to question: why did christianity continue to grow after the magnification of the communist regime?
There are 3 key factors which shaped this :
- The election of a Polish Pope in 1978 – Cardinal Karol Wojtyła of Krakow. This was the first non-Italian Pope since the renaissance. He went on a mission to Poland, millions attended his masses and watched them in the TV or through the radio. This gave people hope and showed them that the regime cannot and will not oppress their faith;
- Churches and bishops encouraged free speech in a system that forbade it. Christianity became a source of light for a lot of people, particularly the youth. This is something they held onto and which continued ‘underground’;
- During the well known solidarity movement in 1989; people recited parts of the bible, members of the clergy were present and more people attended masses during this time than ever before.
Arguably Poland’s largest and most influential political party PiS, is strongly affiliated with the values of the Roman Catholic Church and the representatives are very proud about their religion. PiS holds the majority in the parliament and now their candidate, Andrzej Duda, has been reelected as president, which ultimately means that it has become impossible to veto their new bills and laws.
The party PiS is heavily against LGBT rights and members, including the president whom previously stated: “LGBT are not people — they are an ideology”, “LGBT ideology is worse than communism” and promises that “gay couples would not be able to adopt children and will prevent education about gay rights in public schools”. Recently a number of Polish towns have announced that they are LGBT free-zones, which in itself lacks accuracy. This has caused upset and uproar within communities and states, for instance the Netherlands strongly condemns this as against EU principles.
The EU has threatened to withdraw funds from the towns that advocate homophobia but people have argued that this would go against the EU’s tolerance and it demonstrates a lack of respect of the faith of the Polish people.
To gain a full understanding of this, it is imperative to deconstruct this argument: The principles of the European Union are as follows – human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights. The EU states that, “human rights are protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. These cover the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, the right to the protection of your personal data, and or the right to get access to justice.” It is possible to argue that religion is included within the previous statement and the EU is attacking it or not tolerating it but this argument is likely to face major opposition. Unlike the Polish treatment of the LGBT community, the EU is not asking Christians to give up their faith. The EU simply does not agree with Polish policies attacking and marginalising a vulnerable, minority group of people.
Additionally, claiming that the hate towards the LGBT community is a reflection of their religion is inaccurate. Christianity is a kind and forgiving faith, which is ever changing and evolving with the times. The Pope has stated on a number of occasions that he and/or God does not judge good people based on their sexuality. Moreover, anyone who has previously been offensive to anyone of the LGBT community should seek forgiveness and redemption. Therefore, it seems apparent that a lot of Christians are not evolving and persisting with old manners they were once taught, not listening to the words of the Pope, human rights or critical assessments.
Lastly, when becoming a member state of the EU in 2004 Poland, like any other country, has pledged to evolve and pursue their values, therefore by refusing to do so, they are rejecting the promises that are inclusive of being an EU member, calling to question the continuation of EU funding.
However, Poland continues to receive EU funds. Nevertheless this was not without opposition, multiple member state representatives did not support this because they do not feel comfortable with the hateful direction of Polish policies. However, the COVID-19 crisis needs is at the forefront of world importance at this time and needs to be overcome through unity and no singular country should be excluded. However, the LGBT crisis should not be ignored and it should not be taken that other states are approving of the oppression happening within the country due to continued funding because of the current pandemic.
The country, its people and the PiS party need evaluate their promises, not only to the Polish people, but to other member states and to follow those agreed values. More importantly, it is imperative for them to understand that sexual orientation is not an ideology and dehumanisation of any group is not, and will not ever be acceptable.