Another European Prosecution for Insulting Religion

[Polish pop star Dorota Rabczewska, also known as] Doda is accused by the prosecutor’s office of the capital [Warsaw] of insulting the religious feelings of others, including by calling the authors of the Bible “drunks and drug addicts.” For this, the popular singer is facing up to 2 years in prison.

On April 30, the accusation against Dorota R. was directed to the regional court of the Warsaw-Mokotow district, according to the vice-director of the regional Warsaw prosecutor’s office, Anna Wereszczynska. She added that this accusation is supported by the view of the prosecution’s experts, a philologist and two experts on the Bible (one clergyman and one layperson). The prosecutor’s office did not provide any further details.

Unofficially, the Polish News Agency learned that the experts’ statements partly state that Doda publicly insulted the object of religious worship, which is an element of the crime of insulting the religious feelings of others. The Bible is the object of religious worship of all Christians, the clergy expert noted in his statement.

Prosecutor Wereszczynska states that this accusation was communicated to Doda on April 21 (about which at the time no-one else was informed). The prosecutor does not report whether the accused admitted her guilt during the investigation. All that Wereszczynska has said is that the accused provided her explanation.

In Summer 2009, in an interview with the press the 26-year-old Doda, speaking of the Bible, said that she “believes in the dinosaurs more than in the Bible,” because — in her opinion — “it’s very hard to believe in that which was written by someone who was drunk and smoking some plants.” When she was asked about whom she was talking, she added, “about all those people who wrote all those insane stories.”

The prosecutor’s office was given the accusation by the Chair of the All-Poland Committee of Defense Against Sects Ryszard Nowak. He accused Doda of the crime of insulting the object of religious worship and insulting religious feelings, including of Christians and Jews. He referred to the chapter of the Criminal Code, which says: “Whoever insults the religious feelings of others, publicly expressing contempt for objects of religious worship or a place assigned for public performance of religious rituals must pay a fine, have his liberty restricted or be deprived of liberty for up to 2 years.”

In August 2009, the Mokotow prosecutor’s office refused to initiate proceedings, asserting that Doda’s words did not qualify as the crime of insulting religious feelings. But then the regional court of Warsaw-Mokotow considered Nowak’s appeal of that decision, concluding that the decision was premature. The court ordered the prosecutor to begin proceedings, call on experts in philology and religion, and take the statements of Doda and Nowak.

This is my father’s translation of a seemingly credible Polish news story.

I won’t repeat here all my usual arguments against blasphemy, except to say that religious ideas (and antireligious ideas) should be as subject to criticism — including harsh criticism — as any other ideas. That should be equally true for Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and other religions. I’m glad that blasphemy laws have been rejected in the U.S., and I hope they are rejected in Europe and elsewhere as well.

Fun fact: Rabczewska is apparently engaged to Adam Darski, the singer for the Polish death metal band Behemoth, who is apparently being prosecuted under the very same law, though for a different set of statements. The family that blasphemes together, stays together.

Thanks to Victor Steinbok for the pointer. UPDATE: My father reports that “object of religious reverence” might be a more precise translation than “object of worship.”