Behemoth frontman Nergal, AKA Adam Darski, has been found guilty in Poland’s Supreme Court of “offending religious sentiment” over a Bible-tearing performance. He could go to jail for 2 years.
In 2007, Polish blackened death-metal band Behemoth took the stage in Gdynia, Poland, and did the exact same stage show they’d done everywhere else on tour. But that show included a moment in which frontman Nergal, also known as Adam Darski, tore up a Bible and called the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet.” As he tore up the Bible, he said, “they call it the Holy Book. I call this the book of lies. Fuck the shit, fuck the hypocrisy.”
Ryszard Nowak, head of the All-Polish Committee for Defence against Sects, took him to court. The crime? “Offending religious sentiment,” a law that remains on the books in Poland although some legislators would like to see it repealed. Darski prevailed when the judge found that his Bible-destruction was a form of artistic expression consistent with Behemoth’s style. But it didn’t end there; Catholics saw him booted from his role as a judge on The Voice of Poland, due to his “provocative behaviour, showing a lack of respect not only for religious beliefs, but also for illnesses and the disabled” in another performance in which he pretended to heal someone in a wheelchair.
The case against Darski went all the way to Poland’s Supreme Court where, late last month, a judge found him guilty of “offending religious sentiment,” a crime that can carry up to two years in jail:
The Supreme Court was asked to rule on legal arguments
thrown up by the musician’s trial in a lower court on charges of
offending religious feelings.
It said a crime was committed even if the accused, who uses
the stage name Nergal, did not act with the “direct intention”
of offending those feelings, a court spokeswoman said.
That interpretation closed off an argument used by lawyers
for Darski, who said he had not committed a crime because he did
not intend to offend anyone.
Both sides held their ground: “(The decision) is negative and restricts the freedom of speech,” Jacek Potulski, a lawyer for Darski, told Reuters. He said he was not giving up. “We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements,” the lawyer said.
“The Supreme Court said clearly that there are limits for artists which cannot be crossed,” Nowak told Polish television.
Here’s Darski’s own take:
After emerging from court, Darski himself said that on the one hand “one should respect the court’s verdict.” However, he also claimed that his country’s mentality “is immature, trying to gag people,” and that he was in court for “the good cause”, namely the right to “freedom of speech.”
What do you think? In a country where laws against blasphemy rub shoulders with freedom of speech, which should prevail? Should people go to jail for these kinds of performances? Or should religious groups just look the other way?