A 51-year-old Polish woman was arrested for offending religious people’s feelings by depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo.
I wish I were embellishing. The woman was taken into custody in the Polish city of Plock and charged with “offending religious sentiment” through her inclusive posters.
The Polish interior minister, Joachim Brudziński, announced on Twitter on Monday that a person had been arrested for “carrying out a profanation of the Virgin Mary of Częstochowa”.
A Płock police spokeswoman confirmed a 51-year-old woman had been arrested over the alleged offence. The woman had been abroad, but upon her return, the police entered and searched her home, where they found several dozen images of the Virgin Mary with the rainbow-coloured halo.
The “Black Madonna of Częstochowa” is a revered Byzantine icon that resides in the monastery of Jasna Góra, a UN world heritage site and Poland’s holiest Catholic shrine.
Offending religious feeling is a crime under the Polish penal code. If convicted, the woman could face a prison sentence of up to two years.
Two years for offending some religious people with an image that might make some people mistake your religion for one that is slightly more tolerant than it actually is? By that logic, every atheist on Twitter would get the electric chair. Authorities should be thanking the woman, not punishing her.
Like far too many countries these days, Poland is controlled by right-wing religious zealots for the moment, so this arrest is part of a larger trend that mirrors what we see in Russia and even parts of the Middle East.
Brudziński, who described the posters as “cultural barbarism” when they appeared overnight in April, said: “Telling stories about freedom and ‘tolerance’ doesn’t give anyone the right to offend the feelings of believers.”
Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) has sought to mobilise its core electorate in the run-up to the European elections by raising the spectre of the country being overwhelmed by western liberal social values.
“We are dealing with a direct attack on the family and children — the sexualization of children, that entire LBGT movement, gender,” said the PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, speaking to supporters last month. “This is imported, but they today actually threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state.”
Does any of this sound familiar? These are common tactics of the Religious Right, and they are on the rise across the entire world. This is an attack on the very idea of freedom of speech.
(Thanks to @Em_Paulina for the link)