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5/31/2024 Poland (International Christian Concern) On May 8, Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski passed a new administrative rule banning the display of religious symbols in public buildings in the Polish capital. This rule, part of a larger set of standards intended to promote neutrality, targets the common practice of hanging crucifixes in state offices. 

“Warsaw is the first city in Poland to adopt such a document,” said Monika Beuth, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office. 

The new policy has roused strong feelings in the largely conservative Catholic country. During the Cold War, displaying religious symbols was similarly banned in government buildings while Poland was a member of the Soviet Union. 

Following the announcement of the new rule, Polish politician Mariusz Błaszczak quoted a prominent priest who was killed by the communist regime on social media.  

“There are invisible prisons … of systems and regimes … [that] not only destroy the body, but they reach further, they reach the soul, they reach deep into true freedom,” he quoted. 

“I think this decision is unnecessary,” said Szymon Holownia, speaker of the Polish parliament. “I have found a large number of crosses on the walls of the Sejm. While I personally will not hang crosses in public offices, I don’t think that today in Poland we need a war on whether crosses should be taken down from walls.” 

This is not the first time that debate over the displaying of crosses in public buildings has risen in Europe. In 2011, the European Court of Human Rights heard the case of Lautsi v. Italy, where a parent attempted to sue an Italian school to remove a crucifix from a public school. The court ruled that crosses in public schools were not a violation of European Union law, saying that “a crucifix on a wall is an essentially passive symbol and … cannot be deemed to have an influence on pupils comparable to that of didactic speech or participation in religious activities.”

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