Religious protestors in Poland are calling for prosecutors to ‘sue everyone’ – with potential jail sentences of up to two years – who took part in readings of a controversial theatre play that was withdrawn from a major festival amid fears of violence.
Golgota Picnic was dropped from the Malta Festival, one of the highlights of the Poznań calendar, but counter-protests against censorship have seen the text of the play being read in public in cities around Poland.
In Kraków, police had to intervene as far-right nationalists and hardline Catholics attempted to prevent theatregoers entering the city’s Stary Teatr for a performance. Minor scuffles took place outside the building, on Plac Szczepański.
Religious protestors say Golgota Picnic, by Argentinian Rodrigo Garcia, is controversial because it blasphemes, offends the Christian god, and features ‘desecration’ of the image of Christ’s crucifix. Defenders, including Garcia, say it is a critique of modern consumer society.
Now two Polish MPs, both members of the opposition party Law and Justice (PiS) have made an official request for everyone who took part in public readings of Golgota Picnic to be prosecuted.
Golgota Picnic Trailer – Malta Festival, Poznań:
Andrzej Jaworski and Małgorzata Sadurska say Golgota Picnic was in breach of Article 196 of the criminal code, under which offences against religious feeling can be prosecuted, and which allows jail sentences of up to two years. However, Polish law also offers explicit protection to freedom of expression and speech.
In their formal complaint, the MPs wrote: “Golgota Picnic is… full of obscene scenes, filled with profanity and pornography. It mocks Christ’s passion and death on the cross. It portrays the son of god as selfish and a deceiver. It undermines Christianity in a horrible way, accusing the religion of, amongst other things, the abuse of minors. It offends god, and is a blasphemous desecration of the most important religious symbol, which is the cross, which for us and for all who believe is a sign of faith.”
Małgorzata Omilanowska, Minister for Culture, was also in the frame. The PiS MPs want her prosecuted for allowing Golgota Picnic to be funded from the public purse.
Ms Omilanowska, however, said creative autonomy, alongside the right to artistic expression and freedom of speech were of paramount importance in Poland.
She added: “I do not see any room for preventative censorship, and I cannot imagine that, in Poland, there could ever be prevention of an artistic event just because someone… protests against it.”
Comment from Inside-Poland – You Have the Right to be Offended, but not to Censor