Catholic Bishops in Poland Defend Violent Anti-Gay Speech
Ikea fires man for posting Biblical incitements to violence
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)
Should religious faith excuse incitement to violence?
Ikea, the multinational furniture conglomerate based in Sweden, says no. A group of Catholic bishops in Poland disagree, praising a man’s behavior as “exemplary,” after he posted and refused to remove a biblical passage calling for the death of gay men.
It all started when Ikea invited (but did not require) workers to join in celebrating the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on May 16 — “to stand up for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender plus people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
Sari Brody, Ikea’s head of equality, diversity and integration, wrote a follow-up post requesting that employees “ask for the transgender person’s preferred pronoun (hers, theirs, etc.) and engage LGBT+ people in conversations about their partners and families.”
A worker in Krakow known only as Tomasz K responded to the posts on the Ikea employee intranet with a post of his own:
Acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and other deviations is a source of scandal.
“Woe to him through whom scandals come, it would be better for him to tie a millstone around his neck and plunge him in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13).
Tomasz told Polish national broadcaster TVP Info last Thursday that he made the post because he signed a contract to sell furniture, not implement “so-called LGBT values or promote ideological propaganda.”
Store managers met with the employee and asked him to remove the post because it violated company policy. When he refused, they fired him. The company said in a statement that he was terminated for “using quotes from the Old Testament about death and blood in the context of what fate should meet homosexual people” and “expressing his opinion in a way that could affect the rights and dignity of LGBT+ people.”
They gave Tomasz the following rationale in writing:
“Our human rights and equality policy, supported by our rule of equality and by our code of conduct specifically address lack of tolerance for discrimination and for exclusive behaviour.
“Using your religion background as a reason for excluding others is considered discrimination. While we welcome people of all religious backgrounds and celebrate our differences, this doesn’t mean that we endorse exclusive behaviours in the name of religion.”
Last Sunday, a second employee told TVP Info he had resigned in solidarity with Tomasz, saying, “[If Ikea] promotes equality and diversity, why was this Catholic thrown out of work for expressing his opinion?”
Why was this Catholic thrown out of work for expressing his opinion?
Ikea gets it. It’s not even a very hard question. Posting incitements to violence against LGBTQ employees is about as hostile an act as possible. It’s deeply disrespectful and exclusionary. The fact that the source of the incitement is the book of Leviticus doesn’t make up for it.
The Catholic Church say they get it. Even though in their Catechism, the Church teaches its members that LGBT people are depraved and disordered, they also teach that same-sex attracted people “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
I often write that calling people depraved is itself an act of the gravest possible disrespect, utterly lacking in either compassion or sensitivity. Still, posting Old Testament passages calling for the execution of gay people shouldn’t even pass the smell test of “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
Surely, the Church in Poland would gently rebuke Tomasz and instruct him to hew closer to his faith as taught in the Catechism. Surely, the Church in this case would take the opportunity to demonstrate the respect they claim to stand for. No, that’s not what happened.
Catholic Bishops in Poland have thrown their support behind Tomasz
Bishops of the Polish Episcopal Council said in a statement, “From the point of view of the law and above all of propriety and common sense, it is unacceptable to attack the Ikea employee who refused LGBT indoctrination in the workplace.”
They went on to congratulate Tomasz for his “courage in professing and defending the faith in daily life,” an attitude “worthy of recognition and exemplary.”
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
The situation for many LGBTQ people in Poland today is tense and violent
According to the New York Times, right wing political forces in Poland have allied themselves with the Catholic Church and are demonizing LGBTQ people. Rates of homophobic and transphobic violence are very high and are rising sharply.
Catholic Church authorities in Poland, including Archbishop Wacław Depo, have organized protests of Pride parades, citing supposed dangers to Poland’s children and so-called desecration of religious and national symbols.
Catholic protesters have turned out in large numbers, engaging in violent and provocative behavior while blocking parade routes. Street attacks against LGBTQ people participating in Pride have been common this year.
Somehow, I don’t think LGBTQ people in Poland are feeling much “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” from the Catholic Church.
Should religious faith excuse incitement to violence?
Most people I know would instantly say no. Yet Catholic sites all over the Internet are filled with commentary supporting Tomasz and condemning Ikea. Poland’s ruling party is considering calling for a boycott of Ikea, and Catholics all over the world are clamoring to join in.
No, of course religion must not excuse homophobia
Regardless of a person’s religious belief, publicly posting disrespectful comments about members of minorities, and posting quotes from religious texts that urge violence against members of minorities, crosses a grave moral line.
Nobody is discriminating against Tomasz. He has every right, and he should have every right, to practice his Catholic faith. He can and should attend church if he wishes. He can and should engage in charity and good works as his Church teaches. He can and should refrain from having sex with other men if that’s what his faith-informed conscience dictates.
What he must not do is impose his faith on other people. And neither must Poland’s bishops. Their conduct in endorsing Tomasz’s behavior is narrow minded, judgemental, and irresponsible.
It’s time for leadership in the Catholic Church to speak up. I’ve searched news sources all over Europe and the world in several languages, and I can’t find one word of rebuke from any Catholic leader anywhere. I can’t find a single word from a bishop or cardinal counseling either Tomasz or the Polish Episcopal Council to treat LGBTQ people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
Instead, I find page after page of unfounded complaints that Catholics are being “discriminated against.”