The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that a charge of blasphemy in Poland 10 years ago against singer Dorota Rabczewska violated her human rights. Polish authorities have been ordered to pay damages to her amounting to €10,000.
Rabczewska had been fined €1,060 by the Warsaw district court in 2012 for saying in a television interview that ‘she was more convinced by dinosaurs than by the Bible’ and ‘it is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked weed’.
The ECtHR has now ruled that although her statements could shock, it had not been established they would stir up violence or hatred and were therefore protected by her right to free speech. The case gives a clear ruling that individuals are free to express their views on matters of religion or belief, with the only legitimate limits being the prevention of deliberate incitement to hatred or violence.
In 2018, the same court set a dangerous precedent in a judgment about Austria, declaring – Humanists UK thinks wrongly – that countries could legitimately restrict free speech, within their margin of appreciation, if speech causes ‘offence’ to ‘at least one’ religious adherent. That decision was widely criticised by human rights groups around the world, and fundamentally contradicted the spirit and tradition of free expression in Europe. This latest case concerning Poland comes as a welcome correction to the Austria ruling and sets an important new precedent.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:
‘Freedom of expression should not be restricted unless there are legitimate concerns that it is being used deliberately to incite hatred or violence. The European Court has now upheld the right to express opinions, convictions, and beliefs even if they shock or offend others on religious grounds. Anything short of this would have been to support the use of blasphemy laws which suppress individuals’ rights in favour of religious beliefs.’
Humanists UK is a founding member of the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, which campaigns against such laws around the globe. It is also leading the campaign to repeal Northern Ireland’s blasphemy laws – the last in the UK.
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read the court ruling
See our previous activity report: Humanists UK challenges Austria blasphemy ruling at UN Human Rights Council
Read more about Humanists UK’s international campaign to end blasphemy laws: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.