Making law retroactively

News from Poland. There’s this guy Robert Darski, of the rock group Behemoth. He tore up a bible onstage once. You know what happened next. But he was acquitted! Good.

Not so fast, chum.

Poland’s Supreme Court concluded on Monday that a person may be found guilty of offending religious sensibilities even if the defendant had not “directly” intended to do so.

The court was examining the matter in relation to an appeal against the 2011 aquittal of Robert Darski – frontman of internationally renowned rock group Behemoth – who tore up a copy of the bible on stage.

Darski’s case will now be re-examined by a district court.

No such thing as double jeopardy in Poland, apparently.

At the trial Darski’s lawyers argued that the concert was for fans, who weren’t in a snit about the bible-rippage. Plus it was…you know…a concert.

However, the Supreme Court has indicated in its Monday ruling that Darski’s actions have legal ramifications beyond the concert arena.

“The crime of offending religious sensibilities is committed not only by he who intends to carry  it out, but also by he who is aware that his actions may lead to offence being taken,” the court concluded.

That’s quite an interpretation. We’re all aware that all our actions may lead to offence being taken. If taking the actions anyway is the crime of offending sensibilities, then nobody can do anything.*

While on stage, Darski called the Catholic Church the world’s “most murderous cult” and tore up a copy of the bible, declaring it to be a “book full of lies.”

Darski had been brought to court by former MP  Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the privately run Nationwide Defence Committee against Sects.

Following yesterday’s hearing, Nowak declared his satisfaction with the ruling.

“A clear signal has been sent to all the courts in Poland that one must take care with regard to offending religious feelings.”

Or to put it another way, that one must take care to stfu.

*No that doesn’t mean it’s fine for trolls to call women fucking cunts all the time. The operative word is crime. Not bad or reprehensible, but crime. I’m not advocating a new crime of calling women fucking cunts.

H/t John Carter Wood








  1. Rodney Nelson says

    If God gets annoyed by blasphemy then he can smite the blasphemer himself. A well-placed lightning bolt or two would cut down the incidents of blasphemy dramatically. So why do his “spokes people” think they have to take matters into their own hands? Don’t they have enough faith in their gods?

  2. Rob says

    …former MP Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the privately run Nationwide Defence Committee against Sects.

    Shouldn’t that be “… Defence Committee for Sects.”

    From my point of view the Catholic Church is just a bigger Sect than most.

  3. NoxiousNan says

    aliasalpha, I’m glad you didn’t get it either. This is chilling, thought control stuff right out of 1984. Poland has mostly been under my radar, I admit, but no more. This is the stuff of dystopian nightmares.

  4. says

    Why is “offending religious sensibilities” a crime? HOW can it be a crime, when the existence of one religion is generally an offence to all the rest of them? And who gives a damn, unless you can produce the deity in question in court to show how it was harmed in some way? Otherwise, we’re calling “made uncomfortable” a crime, in which case I should be able to go kill my idiot neighbors a hundred times over.

  5. says

    I begin actively to want revenge.

    I really do just hear this STFU thing too many ways, from too many quarters, on too many flimsy excuses.

    Billboards. Flashing ones. And six foot PA speakers, powered by thousand watt amplifiers. Possibly some fireworks displays. Next to every church, every temple, every mosque. All your prophets were petty, pathetically obvious frauds and all your priests, rabbis, and imams are every bit as bad. Written in the sky and at blasted at earsplittingly high volumes. That’s the scale of blasphemy I begin to want to commit, right now. To make up for everyone who’s ever been told to pipe down, and every time I have been. Make the shushing, cowardly bastards’ eyes and ears bleed…

    I want redress for centuries of shushing. You tried to make the doubters, the unbelievers invisible, afraid, isolated. And too often succeeded.

    So now you get billboards. Big, bright digital ones. Everywhere. Fair’s fair.

  6. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    So the Supreme Court is mad about…what?
    That Darksi told the truth? The Bible is full of lies.
    Or is it that he tore the book up? Are you supposed to respect a book full of lies? Are you supposed to respect a book_period_?
    Is it just a bible he can’t tear up? What if he tore up an anti-choice advertisment?
    What if he ripped apart an MRA poster?

    Both of those could offend sensibilities. Or is the problem simply that he ripped up something *religious*?
    Gosh, it couldn’t be that religion has armored itself from criticism for so long that it’s become unlawful to say anything negative about religious texts without facing “Waaaaah. You offended my religious sensibilities!”

    People like that need to get over it. Religion offends *MY* sensibilities because there is so much offensive material to be found in the various world religions.

    Why can the Catholic Church cry and whine about being offended/blasphemed and demand Sanal Edamaruku retract his statements showing how a miracle was fake (or face arrest), yet I’m criticized for saying that the Raping Children Church is evil?

  7. left0ver1under says

    A person can never win in a kangaroo court for “blasphemy” and “offending religion”. It’s as much a rigged trial as a witch hunt.

    I’d love to see someone in that predicament try the following argument as a defense, using the religion against itself:

    You claim that according to the buybull, “god” was powerful enough to create the universe, and that “god” destroyed blasphemers itself.

    If “god” can do that itself, it doesn’t need followers like you to act on its behalf. The fact that “god” does nothing to me means it isn’t offended by my words and actions. You’re not acting to protect “god” or religion, you’re committing violence and intimidaion for your own desires.

    No argument is going to convince a court that has already reached a verdict and is going through the motions. But it would be worth it to expose the cultists’ actions and motivations for what they are.

  8. gworroll says

    Find a way to package atheism as a “religion”, move to Poland, and get all the Catholic priests arrested as part of a global conspiracy to blaspheme against the Church of Atheism.

    If I could afford it, that would be tempting. I don’t think it would get very far, but still… even if no charges are filed, a well funded effort like that might get a few people to realize how ridiculous that law is.

  9. davidhart says

    This has got to be challengeable under the European Convention on Human Rights. Not necessarily winable, sadly – the Strasbourg court has not been as robust about this as we’d like – but definitely worth a go if they can get there.

  10. AsqJames says


    The ECHR recently ruled on another Polish case. Completely different, but hugely influenced by religion -> link.

    US readers may be interested in the practical results of outlawing abortion except in the event of rape, incest or life of the mother (as advocated by some of the more “moderate” Republicans):

    The unnamed teenager at the centre of this court case became pregnant in 2008 after she was raped at the age of 14.

    In accordance with the law, she got a certificate from the public prosecutor confirming that her pregnancy was as a result of unlawful sexual intercourse.


    The authorities then accused the mother of trying to force her daughter into having an abortion and had “P” placed in a juvenile shelter.

    As you say, the ECHR has hardly been consistently on the side of the…erm…angels on blasphemy, so it’s hard to predict which way they’d go if Robert Darski went there. On the other hand Turkey has been looking to join the EU for years, and while the EU =/= Council of Europe, I think I’m right that membership of the latter is a pre-requisite for joining the former. The prospect of a majority Muslim country being a member of the Council may concentrate minds a little.

  11. Sili says

    former MP Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the privately run Nationwide Defence Committee against Sects.

    Hmmm … that doesn’t sound like the kind of guy to respect a whole lotta religious sensibilities.

    Couldn’t he be prosecuted now by the sects he’s against?

  12. bmiller says

    As the world’s nerdiest aging metalhead*, this has been a big story.

    The reality is…anti-Christianity is arguably the guiding ideology of Behemoth’s work (one reason I am a bit of a fan). It’s a little disingenuous to claim they are not meaning to offend anyone, although I also cannot understand why anyone who is Christian would WANT to attend a Behemoth show unless they are deliberately searching for offense.

    NERGAL beat leukemia, he will beat the sillyness of the Polish courts.

  13. says

    Blasphemy rules like this are really only possible in a society where one major religion in bullying everybody else (or alternatively, where a few major religions come to some compromise and marginalizes all others). If you extend these right equally to all religious groups, society falls apart.

    In other words, blasphemy laws cannot possible be applied evenly. The state would necessarily end up judging between the validity of various religious positions, saying that these should be respected and those should not.

    You especially run into problems because preaching in favor of one religion will necessarily amount to preaching against most other religions (whether implied or explicit). If you mention Jesus as the Son of God, you’re blaspheming against Islam; if you mention any other possible means of salvation, then you’re blaspheming against Christianity, etc.

    It might theoretically be possible to come up with some kind of compromise position, but I find it very telling that the people agitating for blasphemy laws don’t seem to be working on finding such a compromise.
    I question whether they really want a working compromise. I suspect many of them actually just want a legal hammer to hit their critics over the head with.

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