Poland’s commissioner for children’s rights – who is likely to soon be replaced by a more liberal incoming government – has warned that LGBT rainbow “rags” and the crescent, a symbol of Islam, will replace Christian crosses in Polish schools. That would leave children being “brought up without values and unable to fight evil”.
His remarks have been criticised by a number of commentators and opposition politicians, who have pledged to appoint a different commissioner.
Mikołaj Pawlak was appointed as children’s rights commission in 2018 by the ruling national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party’s majority in parliament.
He has since then been outspoken on conservative issues, including announcing earlier this year an inspection of schools that were ranked as the most LGBT-friendly in the country. He said this was needed to ensure that “children are protected from criminals”.
The children’s rights commissioner has announced an inspection of schools recently ranked as the most LGBT-friendly in Poland.
He wants to ensure principals „check employees against the register of paedophiles” so „children are protected from criminals” https://t.co/yGPzGeZ3BT
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 24, 2023
In a new column this week for Niedziela, a Catholic magazine, Pawlak warned that children need to be protected from the “pseudo-rainbow masqueraders preaching false and deceptive ideas of freedom…that a true free and joyful life is a life of debauchery, without any boundaries, without values and rules”.
“When, above the school blackboard, pseudo-rainbow colourful rags – or in some urban districts, crescents – become common instead of the cross, we will live in a world ruled by generations brought up without values and principles, knowing no boundaries and unable to fight evil,” continued Pawlak.
“We have brought upon ourselves a hurricane that will turn our previously calm waters into a dangerous moral storm,” he concluded. “That is why today we must ourselves, in our own homes, make sure that our children know the boundaries of good and evil. Their safe future depends on it.”
Gdy ze szkół znikną krzyże, a kolorowi przebierańcy zaczną nauczać o fałszywych i zwodniczych ideach wolności, musimy sami, we własnych domach, zadbać o to, by nasze dzieci poznały granice dobra i zła. Od tego bowiem zależy ich bezpieczna przyszłość…https://t.co/kmcXr6q3hc
— Rzecznik Praw Dziecka (@RPDPawlak) November 1, 2023
Christian crosses hang in many Polish schools, often above blackboards. That has been an issue of controversy, with many arguing that there religious symbols should not be displayed in public institutions.
Among those to call for the removal of crosses from schools is opposition leader Donald Tusk, who is now likely to be prime minister in a new government formed from three opposition groups that together won a majority at last month’s elections. They are set to come to power this month or in December.
Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO) group as well as one of its coalition partners, The Left (Lewica), have also pledged to strengthen LGBT rights, for example by introducing the right to legally recognised same-sex civil partnerships.
Opposition leader Donald Tusk has called for crosses not to hang in public places such as schools and parliament.
His remarks were condemned by a government minister, who accused Tusk of promoting “the dictatorship of leftism and atheism like in the West” https://t.co/mrUvJ1IBZT
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 6, 2021
Pawlak’s own term as children’s rights commissioner will end next month and in response to his column, two KO politicians – Barbara Nowacka and Dorota Łoboda – made clear that they will seek to replace him with a different candidate.
“The day when this man stops discrediting this office will…[come] soon!” tweeted Nowacka. “His place [will be] taken by a competent person who accepts and respects every child, cares for their rights and responds to violence,” added Łoboda.
Błażej Kmieciak, an academic who was appointed by Pawlak in 2020 to head a state commission on sex abuse against children, also criticised Pawlak’s comments.
“I don’t know if crosses will disappear from schools [but] I do know that our Crucified Master would NEVER call a rainbow flag that is important to someone a ‘colored rag’,” tweeted Kmieciak, who stepped down from the commission this year. “He [Jesus] united, not divided…Protect us, Lord, from contempt.”
Nie wiem,czy znad szkol. tablic znikną krzyże.Wiem,że Ukrzyżowany Mistrz NIGDY nie nazwałby ważnej dla kogoś tęczowej flagi „kolorową szmatą”!
To On łączył,a nie dzielił,mówił o „błogosławionych,kt wprowadzają pokój”.
To ma być ochrona praw dziecka⁉️
Chron nas Panie od pogardy❗️ pic.twitter.com/XyqVajEATp
— Błażej Kmieciak (@kmieciak_b) November 2, 2023
Pawlak’s comments also came just after an annual event known as Rainbow Friday was held in many Polish schools last week. On that day, pupils wear rainbow-coloured clothing to show solidarity with their LBGT peers.
Under the current PiS government, the event has faced criticism from the authorities, including the education minister, Przemysław Czarnek, and some government-appointed provincial school superintendents.
One of those superintendents, Małgorzata Bielang, has this week ordered school principals in Gdańsk whose institutions held Rainbow Friday events to provide information regarding how they were organised.
A deputy mayor of the city, which is ruled by the opposition, described Bielang’s decision as an “aggressive” attempt at “intimidation” and “interference in schools’ activities”.
The education minister has criticised „irresponsible” principals who allowed Rainbow Friday (#TęczowyPiątek), an annual LGBT event, to take place in their schools
“Gender revolutionaries” are trying to put dangerous ideas in the minds of children, he says https://t.co/yYjvGptpMI
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 29, 2022
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Main image credit: Maciek Skowronek / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.