The Consequences of Christian Extremism: Riots

Church defends homophobia, violence breaks out

James Finn
Nov 11 · 6 min read
Image licensed from Adobe Stock

“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)

I have a story to tell today about the Bible, about calls for violence, and about respected religious leaders who defend those calls. This happened. It’s real. It’s not ancient history: my story is set in Europe, last summer. Think pogroms can’t happen here and now? Keep reading, please. Don’t miss the end of this story, not even if you have to skip to the bottom.


Ikea, the multinational furniture conglomerate based in Sweden, said no last summer. But Catholic bishops in Poland disagreed, praising a man’s behavior as “exemplary” after he used the Bible to call for the death of gay men.

Regardless of a person’s religious belief, posting quotes from religious texts urging violence against members of minorities crosses a grave moral line.

It all started when Ikea invited workers to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia last May 16 — “to stand up for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender plus people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

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 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 him and asked him to remove the post because it violated company policy. When he refused, they fired him. Ikea said 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:

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.

A second employee resigned in solidarity with Tomasz, saying, “[If Ikea] promotes equality and diversity, why was this Catholic thrown out of work for expressing his opinion?”

Ikea gets it: Posting incitements to violence against LGBTQ people is a hostile act. 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.

Not one Catholic leader anywhere in the world counseled the Polish people to love their LGBTQ neighbors.

The Catholic Church say they get it: In their Catechism, the Church teaches that LGBT people are depraved and disordered, but they also teach (with an extraordinary dash of dissonance) that same-sex attracted people “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Calling members of human minorities“depraved” is obviously gravely disrespectful and lacking in either compassion or sensitivity. But still and all … posting Old Testament passages calling for the death of gay people shouldn’t even pass the smell test.

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.

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 congratulated 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 LGBTQ people in Poland at that moment was tense and violent

According to the New York Times, right wing political forces in Poland had allied themselves with the Catholic Church and were demonizing LGBTQ people. Rates of homophobic and transphobic violence were sky high and rising sharply.

Senior Church leaders in Poland like Archbishop Wacław Depo were organizing protests of Pride parades, citing supposed dangers to Poland’s children and so-called desecration of religious and national symbols.

LGBTQ people in Poland were feeling precious little“respect, compassion, and sensitivity” from the Catholic Church.

Most people I know would instantly say no. Yet Catholic sites all over the Internet overflowed with commentary supporting Tomasz.

Regardless of a person’s religious belief, posting quotes from religious texts urging violence against members of minorities crosses a grave moral line.

Tomasz 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.

But he DOES NOT have the right to incite violence against people who don’t share his faith. And neither must Catholic bishops. Their conduct endorsing Tomasz’s behavior was narrow minded, judgmental, and irresponsible. Calls for violence in this case led to predictable and tragic results.

Not one Catholic leader anywhere in the world rebuked the Polish bishops. Not one leader, from Pope Francis on down, called for Tomasz and the Polish Episcopal Council to treat LGBTQ people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Not one Catholic leader anywhere in the world counseled the Polish people to love their LGBTQ neighbors.

Instead, article after article, editorial after editorial in the worldwide Catholic press complained that Ikea had discriminated against Tomasz. That’s just nonsense. Nobody has the right to incite violence, no matter what religion they practice.

The results were entirely predictable. Riots broke out all over the country. Mobs attacked Pride parades. LGBTQ people were beaten and stomped into the ground. At least one cis/straight journalist who supports LGBTQ rights had his face smashed in. Click below for first-hand accounts, but be warned: the article is deeply disturbing.

Yes, pogroms CAN happen today. They took place in Poland last summer against LGBTQ people, at the urging of mainstream religious leaders. Official response from Pope Francis and the Vatican? Not one single word.


James Finn is a long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Act Up NYC, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com.

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

James Finn

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

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