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Cross will stay in parliament, Polish court rules

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 15.01.2013 10:33
A court has ruled against seven members of a Polish liberal party that sought to have a cross removed from the debating chamber of Poland's parliament.
Cross over the entrance to the debating chamber. Photo: PAP/Radek PietruszkaCross over the entrance to the debating chamber. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

Judge Alicja Fronczyk: photo - PAP/Radek Pietruszka

The MPs from the anti-clerical Palikot's Movement party had claimed that as atheists, the presence of a cross in the debating chamber violated their rights to freedom of conscience and religion.

Anna Kubica, the barrister representing the group (which included party leader Janusz Palikot) argued in court that the presence of a cross favoured one religion, and that the cross itself was “neither a universal symbol nor a symbol of the Polish nation.”

As cited by the Polish Press Agency (PAP), Kubica stated that the hanging of the cross represented “the domination of one religion, while democracy means the respect for minority rights.”

Nevertheless, Judge Alicja Fronczyk concluded that “the presence of a religious symbol in a public place, such as parliament, does not violate freedom of conscience.”

The judge added that the majority of the population, as represented by parties in parliament, “does not believe that the issue of the cross in parliament requires any kind of action.”

According to a poll conducted TNS OBOP in late 2011, 71 percent of respondents said that they were against the cross being removed from the parliamentary building.

Armand Ryfinski, MP for Palikot's Movement, commented following the verdict that the judge had come to “an entirely wrong” conclusion that the majority can impose its will on the minority.

The MPs intend to appeal against the verdict.

A cross has hung above an entrance to the debating chamber since 1997.

Palikot's Movement is currently the third largest party in parliament, after winning a ten percent share in the nation's vote in the 2010 general election. (nh)

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