Europe

Poland clears LGBT activists of putting rainbow on Roman Catholic icon

Three LGBT activists have been cleared of offending religious feelings in Poland after putting up posters of the Virgin Mary alongside a rainbow.

The gay rights activists had been accused of desecration and offending religious feelings by producing and distributing the images.

The altered posters of the revered Roman Catholic icon were displayed in the city of Plock in 2019 to protest against anti-LGBT sentiments in Poland. The posters used LGBT rainbows as halos in an image of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus.

But the Polish court did not find evidence of a crime and stated that the activists were not motivated by a desire to offend anyone’s religious feelings.

Instead, the activists – Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar, Anna Prus and Elzbieta Podlesna – had wanted to “show their support for LGBT individuals” and “fight for their equal rights”, the court said.

The three defendants had faced up to two years in prison under Polish law, in a country where the influential Catholic Church has shown hostility towards the LGBT community.

The conservative group that brought the case, the Life and Family Foundation, said it planned to appeal.

“Defending the honour of the Mother of God is the responsibility of each of us, and the guilt of the accused is indisputable,” the group’s founder, Kaja Godek, said on Facebook.

But the Polish branch of Amnesty International described the defendants as “courageous” and called on Poland “to refrain from targeting and harassing any other peaceful activists”.

A few days before the posters had been put up in Plock, the leader of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, had accused the LGBT community of being a “threat”.

An LGBT rights group, Love Does Not Exclude, also welcomed the ruling as a “breakthrough”.

“This is a triumph for the LGBT+ resistance movement in the most homophobic country of the European Union,” the group said.

In a December report, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, denounced the “widespread stigmatisation” of LGBT people in Poland, pointing to the responsibilities of leading political figures and calling for reforms.

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