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Court acquits Polish activists who added LGBT rainbow to Roman Catholic icon

Court acquits Polish activists who added LGBT rainbow to Roman Catholic icon
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A Polish court on Tuesday ruled in favor of three activists who added rainbows as halos to an iconic Roman Catholic image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, arguing that it was a form of speech seeking to advocate against LGBT discrimination. 

According to The Associated Press, a conservative group, the Life and Family Foundation, filed a lawsuit against the activists, claiming that the posters they created and distributed in the city of Plock in 2019 desecrated the religious image. 

The posters featured an altered image of Poland’s most-revered figure, the Mother of God of Czestochowa, widely known as the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, the AP noted. 

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The famous original painting has been held since the 14th century at Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa, which is widely considered Poland’s most sacred Catholic site. 

However, the Plock court ruled Tuesday that there was no evidence to suggest that the activists sought to offend members of the Catholic Church, and instead sought to bring attention to what they claimed has been historic discrimination by Poland’s Catholic Church against members of the LGBT community. 

The case, seen as an important free speech test under Poland’s conservative government, provides a win for members of the LGBT community who have pushed for more acceptance by leaders of the Catholic Church around the world. 

One of the defendants, Elzbieta Podlesna, who along with Anna Prus and Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar faced up to two years in prison if convicted, previously said that poster was prompted by an installation at a Plock church that linked LGBT people with crime and sin, according to the AP. 

Several LGBT organizations praised Tuesday’s ruling, with Love Does Not Exclude calling it a “triumph for the LGBT+ resistance movement in the most homophobic country of the European Union.” 

The Life and Family Foundation said that it planned to appeal the ruling. 

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“Defending the honor of the Mother of God is the responsibility of each of us, and the guilt of the accused is indisputable," the group’s founder, Kaja Godek, wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday, according to the AP.

“The courts of the Republic of Poland should protect [Catholics] from violence, including by LGBT activists,” Godek added. 

Other issues, including abortion, have become hotly debated topics in Poland, whose ruling party is heavily aligned with the Roman Catholic Church. 

Protests erupted throughout Poland in January following the implementation of a near-total abortion ban, which came out of a previous ruling from a top court that stated it was unconstitutional to abort a congenitally damaged fetus. 

Abortions in the country are now only allowed in cases of rape or incest, or if the life or health of the mother is in danger.