Poles on trial for 'desecrating' Virgin Mary with rainbow halo

Warsaw (AFP) –


A Polish court on Wednesday began hearing charges against three gay rights activists accused of offending religious sentiment by putting up posters of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo.

The defendants -- identified as Elzbieta P, Anna P and Joanna G -- were present for the opening of the trial in the central city of Plock and face up to two years in prison if convicted of having desecrated the image of the religious icon in 2019.

Article 196 of Poland's criminal code prohibits offending religious sentiment.

The Polish Catholic church and governing nationalists oppose gay rights, which the rainbow flag symbolises.

"God forbid, no, I'm not pleading guilty to having offended religious sentiment," Elzbieta P told reporters before the hearing began.

"I don't believe that a rainbow can offend anything or anyone. I didn't commit a crime," she added, quoted by the Polish news agency PAP.

The case dates back to April 2019, when the posters at issue appeared on rubbish bins and portable toilets near a church in Plock.

They showed a likeness of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, a revered icon of the Virgin Mary located in the devout Catholic country's Jasna Gora monastery.

Earlier that week, the leader of the governing PiS party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, had denounced LGBT rights as a "threat" and called on Poles to respect the Catholic Church regardless of personal beliefs.

A small group gathered outside the regional court Wednesday in a show of support for the activists under the slogan "The Rainbow Doesn't Offend".