Jarosław Kaczyński , the leader of Poland's Christian Law and Justice Party. Picture: REUTERS
Jarosław Kaczyński , the leader of Poland's Christian Law and Justice Party. Picture: REUTERS

Warsaw — Rights activists slammed Poland’s ruling party after authorities detained a woman who allegedly had images of an icon of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow-coloured halo resembling the symbol of the LGBT community.

Police raided the home of Elzbieta Podlesna at 6am on Monday and questioned her for several hours, saying the images — similar to ones put up across her town last month — may break a law on offending religious beliefs.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said police used excessive force and may have breached the constitution, while Amnesty International — which Podlesna has worked with — said authorities detained a “peaceful activist” who has the right to freely express her views.

The raid comes during a closely fought campaign for the May 26 European Parliament elections, where the ruling Christian Law and Justice Party is portraying itself as the saviour of traditional values on a continent that has lost its moral compass. After pro-EU opposition groups teamed up for the ballot, the government is seeking to energise its core electorate to take part in a vote where turnout is usually low.

“Law and Justice has always stressed its close links with the Christian church but never on this scale and certainly has never used this tactic in an election campaign,” Beata Laciak, a sociology professor in the Institute of Public Affairs think-tank in Warsaw, told Bloomberg. “The party is trying to convince Poles that their religion is under threat.”

‘Re-Christianise the EU’

Since winning power in 2015, Law and Justice has steered Poland away from its Western partners, boosting politicians’ roles in everything from the economy to the justice system and triggering an unprecedented stand-off with the EU over whether the formerly communist country is adhering to the bloc’s democratic standards.

Images of the rainbow-coloured version of the Virgin Mary of Częstochowa, the country’s most revered religious icon, have mushroomed across social media since the police detainment. This has shown the government’s difficulty to control the issue.

The police said in a statement on Tuesday that it’s “obliged to respond to any notification, regardless of whether there’s suspicion of a crime concerning Catholics or followers of another religion” and that a court would ultimately decide whether a person is guilty or not.

Last weekend, party leader Jarosław Kaczyński said the Church was under a “very brutal attack” by the opposition. He warned that “whoever raises his hand against the Church, raises his hand against Poland”. Last year, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed to “re-Christianise the EU”.