The rights of the majority are endangered

Wiesława Lewandowska talks to Professor Jadwiga Staniszkis about a fight against the Church in the Seym of the Polish Republic, the rights of the majority and minority and the standards of the modern Europe.

WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - Beginning a fight against the Cross in the Seym in the interest of the respect to rights of non-catholic minority, Janusz Palikot also gives an argument that it is high time Poland subordinated itself to the standards of modern Europe at last...

PROF. JADWIGA STANISZKIS: - By stating so, he shows how undereducated man he is whose attitude towards this issue is very primitive. He does not even realize that it may be about not only the religion issue in this quarrel about the Cross but also the aspect of human rights. Janusz Palikot may simply not know that the essence of the modern Europe is an open constitutionalism consolidated by the Lisbon Treaty.

- What is the modern European openness?

- The open constitutionalism is a constant reinterpretation of legal norms and standards within the space limited also by changeable extreme conditions resulting from documents which are not necessarily compatible with each other in one hundred percents. I specifically mean the European Convention of Human Rights existing since the times of the Cold War and which protects the rights of the majority, as well as a Charter of Basic Rights which guarantees more rights for the minority. In the course of time in Europe a bigger emphasis was put on the protection of the minority because it was thought that the majority did not have to be specially protected, since it is protected by the state anyway. So this myth has appeared in this way and which is being used by the opponents of the Cross in the Polish Seym, that only the minority has got rights....

- And it often came to the exaggeration, to terrorization of the majority in the interest of the political correctness...

- Certainly, it happened so, and it would surely happen more often but, luckily, an important legal document - the European Convention of Human Rights has existed all the time since 1953. In the times of the Cold War the document was a valuable tool - it was supposed to help the society under the captivity of a hostile country, to regain freedom, it was also helping with the fight for religious and cultural identity.

- Why was not the European Convention of Human Right invalidated during accepting the Charter of Basic Rights in 2000?

- Probably this law was not unified deliberately and both documents were kept, otherwise the rights of the majority would lose today...Maintaining under the power of the Convention proves that there are people in Europe who are aware of the fact that even in democracy the country does not have to be automatically, culturally or religiously - the representative of the majority...The elites of new democracies often build their identity, basing on the political correctness of a culturally different space... Therefore, it is necessary to remember about the existence of the art. 9 of the Convention of Human Rights, which says about the right to demonstrate one's cultural and religious identity in the public space, and also about the right to symbols... However, nowadays, we must remember that the intention of this document from the times of the Cold War was not only giving a tool to demand a group identity but also the social activation...

- Does it mean that it is not enough to be in the majority or minority - but we need to demand our rights actively?

- Yes. Besides values of a different vector (for example the aforementioned freedom to present symbols of the group identity in the public space, and on the other hand - the right to express the beliefs of the minority, as in the case of Palikot), a balance point is defined, resulting from the quantitative proportions; and also from the activity of those who express their preferences. It was the way in which the European Tribunal of Human Rights was arguing within the decision about keeping the Cross in an Italian school (the case of Lautsi). The European Convention of Human Rights is really an interesting and valuable document which enforces civic mobilisation. It is not enough to be only passive in the majority, but we must be active citizens with awareness that the group identity is a part of functioning in the contemporary world. And in the history as well.

- Does not the modern European identity have to be synonymous with the lack of religious symbols in the public space?

- Let's look at Great Britain which is a modern liberal country where the queen is the Head of Church in which religious symbols are not concealed. Tony Blair, as a leader of a very modern political party, and a frequently elected Prime Minister, was against the French solution of eradication of religious symbols from the public space (it concerned the Islam burqa).

- What can the fight against the Cross in the Polish Seym end?

- In my opinion Janusz Palikot will be a loser before the Tribunal in Strasburg though.


"Niedziela" 48/2011

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