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Polish printer’s conscience deserves protection

– Human rights advocates concerned over recent Supreme Court decision

– ADF International intervenes at Constitutional Tribunal


WARSAW (20.6.2018) – Are people in Poland free to live out their faith without having to choose between their profession and their convictions? Their Constitution says so. Their top court, however, recently disagreed.

On 20 June 2018, ADF International filed an intervention with the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland following the Supreme Court ruling against a Polish printer. The court found that conscience rights would not protect the man from Łódź. Relying on criminal law, the judges found the printer guilty of illegally refusing to provide services without a “justified cause.”

“No one should have to choose between their profession and their faith,” said Alice Neffe, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Brussels, who filed the intervention.

“The Supreme Court should have protected the printer’s constitutional conscience rights. The right to freedom of conscience, which is protected by every major human rights treaty, must include the right to act accordingly. The Court failed to recognize the printer’s religious convictions as a ‘justified cause.’ The Constitutional Tribunal should now address the shortcomings of the current law and determine whether religious beliefs would justify a conscience-based refusal to print a particular message.”

Criminal charges for living in line with conscience

On 14 June 2018, the Polish Supreme Court ruling ended three years of penal proceedings against the printer. It started in 2015 when he refused to print a banner promoting the events of an LGBT-organisation. The printer objected to endorsing a message which his faith teaches that he cannot.

In many cases of alleged discrimination, Polish courts apply penal law. If service providers refuse services in the absence of “a justified cause,” they can be convicted and fined. The main issue at stake in this case was for the courts to determine whether religious convictions could constitute a “justified cause.”

An assault on freedom

Despite the fact that the Polish Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, the lower courts dismissed the printer’s religious convictions as a possible ”justified cause” for refusing to endorse an LGBT campaign. On 14 September 2017, the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro, filed for appeal with the Supreme Court on the printer’s behalf. The Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the lower courts against the printer. The attention now turns to the Constitutional Tribunal.

Following the judgment, Minister Ziobro called the Supreme Court’s decision an “assault on freedom”: “This ruling forces citizens to provide services opposed to their own convictions. The state should not pressure people into such behaviour.“

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