“This is a secular state”: Polish government ends subsidies for religious publications

Poland’s culture minister has announced that he is ending state subsidies for publications of a religious character. However, he has also pledged to provide such subsidies to publications with a wide range of political positions, including those critical of the government.

“The mission of the state is not to spread faith and salvation. This is a secular state,” said Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz. The minister emphasised that taxes come from citizens with a range of religious views and should not be used to support any particular religion.

Nie będzie dotacji dla pism wyznaniowych. Sienkiewicz: To jest świeckie państwo https://t.co/w3EyaTWvHS pic.twitter.com/JLuDXWPtyK

— Radio TOK FM (@Radio_TOK_FM) March 14, 2024

The culture ministry provides annual grants to various magazines, journals and other such publications that are deemed worthy of support.

Under the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which ruled Poland until the end of last year and had close ties to the Catholic church, religious publications often received such subsidies.

Last year’s list, for example, included Christianitas, published by the Saint Benedict Foundation, and Civitas Christiana.

Poland’s current government – a coalition of parties ranging from left to centre-right that took power in December – has pledged to reduce state subsidies directed towards the church and to the role of religion in public life.

The new government’s plans to reduce the presence of religion in public spaces are a return to “the dark times of communism”, said the archbishop of Kraków in a Christmas homily.

He also criticised the takeover of public media by the new ruling coalition https://t.co/G0udz08t3F

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 27, 2023

Sienkiewicz yesterday announced the new list of publications that will receive subsidies from his ministry. While he confirmed that religious ones have been excluded, he emphasised that many conservative journals remain.

“The group of journals that received subsidies included some for which I may be criticised by part of my political camp,” said Sienkiewicz. As an example, he pointed to Arkana, a bimonthly published by figures associated with PiS.

Sienkiewicz noted that, while it was founded by Andrzej Nowak, “an intellectual fiercely critical of my political camp, [it] absolutely deserves subsidies because it brings together an important environment for public debate in Poland”.

Among the magazines and journals to receive subsidies this year were also some that are associated with Catholic intellectual groups but not linked directly to any religious organisation, such as Tygodnik Powszechny, Kontakt and Znak.

The EU elites must abandon their „colonial, Orientalist” attitude towards eastern member states and engage in dialogue, says Andrzej Nowak.

We speak with one of Poland’s leading conservative voices about disputed elections, judicial reform and state media https://t.co/VlVquFHjqM

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 3, 2020

The minister said that he wanted the subsidies “to be a symbol of a policy that does not exclude anyone” and “ensures a [high] level and reliability of debate”. He also noted that the total amount of subsidies had been increased from 2.8 million zloty to 3.7 million (€860,000).

“We tried to balance this program so that it reflects the entire spectrum of public opinion in Poland,” added Sienkiewicz, contrasting this to what he claimed was the “rather one-sided policy” employed during eight years of PiS rule.

The government should not support “magazines from its own environment and at the same time ignore those on the opposite side”, he said.

However, some conservative publications that received subsidies under PiS have disappeared from the ministry’s list this year, including Wpis – Wiara, Patriotyzm i Sztuka, Kurier Wnet and Lux.

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: MKiDN (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 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 PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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