CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).- A judge on Tuesday found three activists who distributed images depicting Poland’s Black Madonna icon with a rainbow halo not guilty of offending religious feelings.

Three women — Elżbieta Podleśna, Anna Prus, and Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar — went on trial in Płock, central Poland, on Jan. 13 accused of offending religious feelings, a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.

The Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported on March 2 that the judge concluded that the activists did not intend to offend religious sensibilities or to insult the venerated image of the Virgin Mary.

The judge reportedly added that their actions were aimed at protecting people facing discrimination.

During the first hearing in January, a crowd of mainly young people gathered outside the courtroom, chanting slogans such as “A secular, not Catholic Poland” and “The rainbow does not offend.”

Local media said that at one point the chanting was so loud that it was difficult for the hearing to proceed. Following testimonies from the first witnesses, the trial was adjourned.

The case concerned an incident in April 2019, when the three women placed posters and stickers of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa with rainbow halos on Mary and the Child Jesus on locations around Płock.

The activists said that they attached the images to walls and around the city’s St. Dominic’s Church in response to a display inside the church which listed “LGBT” and “gender” — the Polish term for gender ideology — as sins.

Elżbieta Podleśna, a psychotherapist and activist, told the court on Jan. 13 that she regarded the display as “homophobic” and believed it could encourage the stigmatization of “people of non-heteronormative sexual orientation and gender identity.”

She was arrested in May 2019 at her home in Warsaw and taken to Płock for questioning. A court later determined that her detention was unjustified and awarded her damages of around $2,000.

The three women faced trial under Article 196 of the country’s penal code, which says that “Whoever offends the religious feelings of other persons by publicly insulting an object of religious worship, or a place designated for public religious ceremonies, is liable to pay a fine, have his or her liberty limited, or be deprived of his or her liberty for a period of up to two years.”

Karolina Pawłowska, director of the Ordo Iuris International Law Center in Warsaw, told CNA in January that she was confident that the trial had a sound basis in Polish law.

“The image that is the subject of this case — which depicts the Mother of God and Baby Jesus with the halos replaced with colors that are commonly associated with LGBT movements — I think it’s one of the cases that fulfills all premises of profanation, which is defined in the Polish criminal code in Article 196,” she said.

Pawłowska pointed out that the “Rainbow Madonna” image was recently displayed during mass protests after the country’s constitutional court ruled that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

“Right now in Poland, we can see that this image is quite popular, especially among, for example, protesters that were using it during protests against the judgment of the Polish constitutional tribunal which banned eugenic abortion,” she said.

“And I think this image is very, very offensive to many, many people. And this is why it should not be promoted.”

Onet.pl quoted Podleśna as saying that the prosecutor’s office was likely to appeal against the verdict.

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