Polish senators defend the crucifix

The declaration of the senators of Right and Justice directed to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland Mr. Donald Tusk concerning the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg on the presence of crucifixes in public places.

Mr. Prime Minister!
The senators of Right and Justice want to thank the President of Poland for his unequivocal and firm defence of the crucifix included in his speech on the Independence Day, 11 November 2009; in particular, we want to thank for the words, ‘Nobody in Poland will accept the message that one cannot hang crucifixes in schools; that cannot be taken into account.’ Fully approving the statement of the President, we, senators of Law and Justice, express our firm opposition to the content of the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg, issued on 3 November 2009, containing the thesis that ‘hanging crucifixes in classrooms’ infringes the parents’ rights to educate children in accordance with their own beliefs and endangers ‘religious freedom of pupils.’ The judges of the European Court refer to the neutrality of the state concerning preferring a particular view of the world and they also refer the European Convention on Human Rights, claiming that the sight of a crucifix favours only some parents to have their children brought up according to their convictions. In our opinions, as far as the neutrality of the state related to the worldviews is concerned the judges of the Court want to make religion a purely private matter, without any right to its presence in public life. One cannot accept that. Such a model of neutrality of the state is completely contradictory to the International Pacts of Human Rights and the Convention on Human Rights. The justification of the verdict includes a thought about ‘moral losses’, which a child can bear because the child can look at a crucifix. Such an understanding of the presence of the sign of the cross in public places is a unique expression of absurd. The sign of sacrifice of love and giving one’s life for others, which is the meaning of the cross, does not legitimise the conclusion about losses or moral evil. What evil decisions and what moral deeds does the view of the cross induce pupils to? What does the moral loss concretely mean in this situation? Our further highest concern is the intellectual chaos concerning the understanding of ‘religious freedom’ by the judges of the Court in Strasburg. We are wondering why this high degree of jurisdiction has forgotten about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), in which one can find clearly that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance’(article 18).
In the light of this Declaration we, Catholics, have the inalienable right to express inner religious acts, confess them in community and manifest them in public. This right applies not because Catholics constitute the majority of a given country although it is a very important argument. We think that to display the sign of the cross in public places, including schools, it is enough to have respect for freedom of conscience and religion and the right confirmed by the state authorities. The punishment for the consent to hang crucifixes in public places terrifies because it resembles the years of the communists’ fight against religion. An obvious conclusion is that communism fell but the idea to fight against the crucifix assumes new, unprecedented dimensions.
The above-mentioned conclusion is not groundless because we can observe similarly shocking verdicts of the Court in Strasburg more and more, displaying alarming ignorance concerning the meaning of Christianity in the history of nations and European culture. Furthermore, similar verdicts release blasphemous statements in the media, release anti-Catholic attitudes, various nonsense, which we can also see in Poland, e.g. in the ostentatious statements of some left-wing politicians. This propaganda fight against the Church has not only been an expression of ostentatious atheism but also aggressive anti-clericalism. We say it openly that the verdict of the Court of Human Rights evokes concern in Poland. Many significant personalities have stated that this verdict set precedence and can be the basis for other parents to bring to court similar matters, following the case in question, that their children must look at crucifixes in schools. If that happened, we would face a fight against God since religious signs are not only crucifixes in schools – these are also churches, sanctuaries, pictures in museums, literature, religious robes or priestly cassocks in streets, in public places. We experienced such a painful fight during the times of the Polish People’s Republic. It is not the time to mention the victims. Therefore, we appeal to the institutions of the European Union to respect Christian religion, which is an essential element of the European culture. Separating religion from culture, which the Court in Strasburg did by issuing the verdict, harms the feelings of believers, destroys the universally respected human rights and in our opinion, is not permissible.
Mr. Prime Minister! The senators of Law and Justice appeal to you to take a stand in the Council of Europe concerning the defence of freedom of conscience and religion as well as the system of values constituting the common heritage of Christian Europe.
Warsaw, 19 November 2009.

Sincerely yours,
Senators: Stanislaw Zajac, Czeslaw Ryszka, Zdzislaw Pupa, Wladyslaw Dajczak, Ryszard Bender, Bohdan Paszkowski, Stanislaw Gogacz, Tadeusz Skorupa, Norbert Krajczy, Witold Lech Idczak, Henryk Gorski, Bronislaw Korfanty, Waldemar Kraska, Krzysztof Majkowski, Zbigniew Romaszewski, Stanislaw Kogut, Grzegorz Banas, Wieslaw Dobkowski, Stanislaw Karczewski, Piotr Kaleta, Jerzy Chroscikowski, Zbigniew Cichon, Kazimierz Wiatr, Wladyslaw Ortyl, Tadeusz Gruszka, Stanislaw Piotrowicz, Janina Felinska, Grzegorz Wojciechowski, Przemyslaw Blaszczyk, Kazimierz Jaworski, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, Adam Massalski, Slawomir Sadowski

"Niedziela" 48/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl