After a Polish lesbian artist posted images of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, the most revered image of the Virgin Mary in Poland, with a rainbow halo to represent the LGBT community, she could face up to two years in prison for offending religious beliefs.
NBC News reported that Elzbieta Podlesna, 51, posted the images, which also showed the baby Jesus with a rainbow halo, near St. Dominik’s church in Plock. According to The Daily Mail, “Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the church in Plock had previously used a symbolic tomb of Christ – an Easter tradition in Polish churches – to convey a message opposing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.”
The Black Madonna is a painting that has been in the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochow since the 14th-century.
Speaking on Tuesday, Podlesna said, “This is certainly not an attack on religion, certainly not an attack on faith, this is not a form of attack. How can you attack anyone using a picture, let’s be serious.”
On Tuesday evening, protesters rallied in Warsaw to support Podlesna, who had been questioned by police on Monday.
Former Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said doctoring the image of the Black Madonna “should not take place because they can insult people who are deep believers.” Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski tweeted, “No stories about freedom and ‘tolerance’ give ANYBODY the right to offend the feelings of believers.” A musician taking issue with the protesters said, “Those people are brain-washed idiots … ‘Poland has been a Catholic country for many, many years.”
Barbora Cernusakova of rights group Amnesty International countered, “Restricting activists from freely expressing their views in the country is unlawful and must stop immediately.”
Poland is predominantly Catholic and its government is conservative and pro-church, in recognition of the church’s supportive role in the country’s struggle for freedom during World War II and later against communist rule. In recent weeks, the ruling rightwing Law and Justice party has described the LGBT rights movement as a danger to Polish families and children. It seemed to be tapping into a belief held by some Poles that liberal values have been forced on them as a result of Poland joining the EU 15 years ago.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of the ruling Law and Justice party, said in April, “We are dealing with a direct attack on the family (and) on children: this sexualizing, the LGBT movement, everything together with gender (theory), this whole movement questioning every kind of affiliation … Of course it has a relationship to a certain kind of ideology, philosophy, which arose earlier in the West. All of it is imported to Poland … Today they truly threaten our identity, our nation, our survival, and the Polish state.”
Gay marriage and civil unions are not recognized in Poland; Article 18 of the Constitution of Poland reads, “Marriage, being a union of a man and a woman, as well as the family, motherhood and parenthood, shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland.”