Evangelical Polish Pastor Faces 5 YEARS in Prison for Free Speech
For several years, there was much pseudo-dirt collected against Pastor Paweł Chojecki. Every minute of the live programs he participated in, including his sermons to his congregation, was vetted. A few sentences were taken out of context, and the Prosecutor’s Office accused him of offending the religious sensibilities of Catholics, insulting objects of Catholic religious worship, praising the initiation of a war of aggression against communist North Korea (sic!), and insulting the Polish nation and President of the Republic of Poland. The trial of Pastor Paweł Chojecki, editor-in-chief of Against The Tide TV, will take place on Wednesday, March 31.
The Prosecutor’s Office in unison with haters
The initiators of the notification to the Prosecutor Office about Pastor Paweł Chojecki are a group of haters. Based on the excerpts from his sermons and his appearances in journalistic programs, often taken out of context and misunderstood, Prosecutor’s Katarzyna Urban prepared an indictment. Surprisingly, the prosecutor’s office used haters’ materials, which included offensive and anti-Semitic titles added by the haters, such as carcass, shit, psychopastor chojecki, rabbi chojecki, Lublin cesspool.
Who are the authors of the denunciation to the Prosecutor’s Office? Two of them have heard criminal charges of threats against Pastor Chojecki, his family, and members of the New Covenant Church in Lublin, of which pastor Chojecki is the leader. They are also facing charges of attack on the headquarters of the church. Together and in concert, they conduct actions both in the real world (denunciations, disrupting meetings, throwing out leaflets, putting up posters, etc.) and on the Internet. The most active haters are Grzegorz W., Paweł B. and Radosław P.
He threw feces at the headquarters of pastor Chojecki’s Church. Now he is among the ‘aggrieved’
Paweł B. has already been accused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of persecuting a policeman, who is a member of the New Covenant Church in Lublin. Under a court settlement, he has to apologize and pay the court fees.
It has already been three years that the prosecutor’s office in Nowy Sącz has been investigating the persecution of pastor Chojecki by Paweł B. who went to the local church headquarters and wrapped around the town with leaflets, in which he called for religious hatred towards the pastor and members of his church.
“Trees, poles, all the stops, mailboxes, the shop, their bunker, everything f*cking covered,” Paweł B. wrote later on Facebook. Together with his companions, he poured feces on the church headquarters, which he also boasted about on Facebook.
“Since I also felt like it, we ritually took a piss on the gate. Such a spiritual cleansing,” he wrote.
Paweł B. publishes vulgar and perverse entries on the Internet about the pastor, his family, members of the Against The Tide TV editorial office, and members of the New Covenant Church in Lublin, which are too much to even quote. He also disrupts meetings organized by the Church and television, distributing e.g. leaflets entitled “Zone free from sectarianism / Stop the destructive sect of Chojecki” with the logo of the Church and television crossed out (inspired by the “LGBT-free zone” leaflet).
Grzegorz W. has also been defaming Pastor Chojecki and his environment for many years. Regarding Paweł Chojecki, he wrote, inter alia, “I think I’ll punch him in the teeth soon!”; “In Russia, it is said that mordyashka prosit kirpicha, what means: that kisser is asking for a brick!” (comments posted on YouTube). There are pending proceedings against Grzegorz W. He also published offensive entries against the children, daughter-in-law, or even grandson of Pastor Chojecki, calling the child “Antichrist”. Grzegorz W. also went to the pastor’s family’s house and he published a video about it on YouTube, making the exact address public as well. In the film called “Chopina Street – bunkers of the Paweł Ch.’s sect and sensational townhouses”, Grzegorz W. showed the place where members of New Covenant Church park their cars in Lublin. Two days later, on the hood of a car of one of the Church’s pastors, there was an inscription “F*ck SECTS”).
Pastor Paweł Chojecki and his message to Poles:
The prosecutor supported the anti-Semite lawsuit against the pastor
Additionally, the actions of at least some of the “aggrieved” parties stem from anti-Semitic attitudes. They often call pastor Chojecki a “rabbi”, which they find offensive. They also verbally attacked the citizen of Israel, Ivan Belostenko, a member of the New Covenant Church in Lublin, for his ethnicity. Paweł B. published a graphic entitled “Easter +prayer+ of the sectarian Ivan Belostenko” with the image of Mr. Belostenko and Israeli flags converted into SARS-CoV-2 viruses. He also wrote about Ivan Belostenko on his blog: “His task is also to promote Zionist narrative among his viewers through sectarian television.” Also, Paweł B. promoted on Facebook the graphic “Podhujaszczy Ivan Belostenko ps. Peyo, Jew”.
Another of them, Grzegorz W., was accused in 2015 of insulting the Jews. The court found him guilty but did not impose a penalty and conditionally discontinued the case. Grzegorz W. posts on YouTube such as: “Lecherous J e w Ivan went with Misses Choojszit and Marzena as a chaperone to Auschwitz.”
The hate campaign against Pastor Chojecki, his Church, and the Against the Tide TV has been conducted for years in some national, Catholic, and government media, where the Church is referred to as a “sect” (e.g. in Media Narodowe and TVP Info).
For over a year, the Prosecutor’s Office investigated Pastor Chojecki without informing him of the case against him. He heard the prosecutor’s charges just before Christmas on December 17, 2020.
The prosecutor violated the pastor’s right of defense?
According to the attorney Andrzej Turczyn, the defense counsel of Pastor Chojecki, Prosecutor Katarzyna Urban significantly violated the pastor’s right of defense by failing to indicate in the content of the allegation how the alleged crimes were committed. Attorney Turczyn stated that based on the content of the allegation it is not clear what exactly Pastor Paweł Chojecki is suspected of. Therefore, it is not known what the defense should be against. And this is clear deprivation of the right to defense in the preparatory proceedings. By parallel, the Prosecutor’s Office accused the pastor of stealing but did not say what, when, and from whom has been stolen. It is difficult to defend against such an accusation.
The Office of the Human Rights Defender intervened in the case. Dr. Adam Bodnar sent a letter requesting clarification of the case to Prosecutor Bartosz Frąk, supervising the District Prosecutor’s Office.
“The prosecutor’s office, headed by Zbigniew Ziobro, the Minister of Justice of the Law and Justice government, joined the attack of haters instead of defending the minority Church. The same Prosecutor’s Office has repeatedly refused to protect the New Covenant Church in Lublin against attacks by haters. (Last year we published the report DISCRIMINATION AND PERSECUTION OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS IN POLAND on the example of the New Covenant Church in Lublin and Against the Tide TV. The document presents specific examples of persecution and discrimination of Protestant Christians, also by the government of the Republic of Poland, Polish services, and the judiciary. It shows, inter alia, a case of a car, belonging to a Christian from New Covenant Church in Lublin, burned down. The car was burned down next to a house, where a group of small children was staying. The report was sent to the Polish authorities, and also to the American Department of State). And now the prosecutor’s office has accepted the arguments of the hater,” comments Pastor Paweł Chojecki.
It is worth mentioning that there has already been a scandal concerning hate towards the judges in the Ministry of Justice led by Ziobro. It was a so-called Piebiak scandal in which the undersecretary of state in the ministry inspired haters to attack judges.
Pastor accused of offending Catholic religious sensibilities
The prosecutor’s office appointed an expert in the field of religious studies, dr hab. Elżbieta Przybył-Sadowska. The expert did not find the guilt of pastor Chojecki in the substantive layer of his statements. But she did find him guilty on a linguistic basis. However, in the linguistic field, Dr. Przybył-Sadowska is not an expert.
Nevertheless, based on her opinion, the Prosecutor’s Office accused Pastor Chojecki of offending the religious sensibilities of Catholics by insulting objects of Catholic religious worship with the statement: “You eat the little Jesus, and He will stay in you for up to 15 minutes. If someone digests faster, for example, if the priest has drunk wine, the digestion is faster, and Jesus lives in a priest for 5 minutes. As for a poor man who only drinks water, his gastric juices dilute it a little, and Jesus stays for 15 minutes”.
“Honestly speaking, I do not know which object of religious worship is offended here and which words are an insult in this description. It is a humorous paraphrase of a fragment of an article from the Catholic portal Deon.pl: ‘So we can say that after consuming Holy Communion, this physical presence of Jesus lasts from 10 to 15 minutes in our bodies because this is how long the process of digesting takes more or less,’” – says Pastor Chojecki.
In the prosecutor’s indictment, there is also a charge of insulting the object of religious worship in the pastor’s statement about transubstantiation, i.e. the Catholic teaching about the transformation of a host into the body of Jesus during the mass.
“It is an ironic demonstration of the nonsense of the dogma of transubstantiation, according to which, and here I am quoting the Catholic portal Deon.pl, ‘moreover, even the smallest piece of the host or a drop of wine contains all Christ.’ It is incomprehensible to me that the prosecutor’s office of the secular state deals with the inter-church polemic on the dogma of transubstantiation, unequivocally standing on the side of the Catholic religion as if the Republic of Poland was a Catholic religious state,” comments Pastor Chojecki.
“In my deepest conviction, I did not commit a crime in any of these statements, nor did I go beyond the historically established polemic between Catholicism and Protestantism. Neither did I go beyond the modern framework of public debate, nor did I intend to offend anyone,” adds the pastor.
It must be admitted that, indeed, interreligious polemics are often sharp. Martin Luther once said about the Catholic mass, the essence of which is transubstantiation: “the mass is in the papacy the greatest and most horrible abomination (…), and at the same time it has become the greatest and most magnificent of them before all other papal idolatries! (…). Besides, this dragon’s tail (and I mean the mass) gave birth to all sorts of abominations and idolatry.”
“By not allowing me to proclaim this type of views in my Church or publish them in the public space, the Prosecutor attempted my freedom to profess and proclaim religious views. Therefore, I feel discriminated against because of my religion,” adds Pastor Chojecki.
Pastor accused of insulting the Polish president
The prosecutor’s office accused Pastor Chojecki of insulting the Polish President, Andrzej Duda. He was to do so, naming President Duda, inter alia, ‘coward’, ‘ram’, ‘jerk’, ‘traitor’ or ‘sleepy agent’.
We asked Pastor Chojecki how he explains the use of such words.
“I used these terms in various contexts. I never intended to offend President Duda. I only commented on his political activities. Some of these terms refer to the way he presented his candidacy to Poles in the 2015 presidential campaign in the context of his subsequent political activities. In my opinion, an attempt to criminalize such journalistic assessments is unacceptable in a democratic state ruled by law. I use strict terms to provoke Poles to think about what they hear from politicians and not to accept their smooth words thoughtlessly,” explains Pastor Chojecki.
“I was very much involved in Andrzej Duda’s election campaign in 2015, supporting him, calling for voting for him, and hoping for a good change in Poland. Unfortunately, President Duda did not keep his promises and denied some of the values he preached. Despite the indignation that I expressed in my public activities, I was able to praise him for what he did well, and in the 2020 elections, I did not stand against him, but declared neutrality and did not go to the elections. At the same time, my guests to Against The Tide TV called for voting for Andrzej Duda, which shows that the aim of my journalistic activity is not to insult the president, but only to ensure that he performs his office with dignity – in faithfulness towards Poland, civil liberties and Christian values,” comments Pastor Chojecki.
A mind-boggling charge against the pastor: praising the waging war of aggression against North Korea
“The most bizarre accusation against me is the accusation of ‘praising the initiation and conduct of a war of aggression against North Korea,’” comments Pastor Chojecki. Indeed, the prosecutor’s indictment also includes such an allegation.
“I assume the prosecutor does not know that the Western world has been at war with communist North Korea since 1950,” adds the pastor.
“I suspect that the accusations may be related to my anti-communist activity, which does not appeal to some governmental circles cooperating with, for example, communist China”, says the editor-in-chief of Against the Tide TV.
‘Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are the pillars of a democratic state’
“Everything that I am accused of is connected with my activity as a clergyman – pastor of the New Covenant Church in Lublin and a journalist and publicist of the online TV Against The Tide. Both of these types of activities are called a mission in a democratic system, and therefore, they are subject to special protection as pillars of a democratic state. They include freedom to practice and profess a religion, to express one’s religious views and freedom of speech in public debate. These values are also subject to special protection of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, European Union law, and international law,” explains Pastor Chojecki.
“The fact that I am accused is another proof that Poland is moving at a dangerous rate towards a Catholic-National-Socialist dictatorship in which criticism of the ruling power or religion is stifled by administrative methods. I consider the impeachment of a Christian pastor for words spoken out of love for God and Poland as a personal insult and a violation of the divine and human rights of the Polish state. (“It is also not good to fine the righteous, Nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.” Proverbs 17:26)”, he adds.
“In my opinion, the indictment against me is related to my criticism, exposing the errors and crimes of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, which, as you can see, still has a privileged position in Poland, and it is related to our journalistic activities, where we criticize the ruling coalition. Our television covers inconvenient topics, and some of our programs have gained great popularity on the web, reaching over 100,000 views,” summarizes pastor Chojecki.
Are laws about insulting the President and offending religious sensibilities a trap for the rebellious?
It is more and more common to hear voices saying that art. 135 of the Criminal Code, that is, insulting the head of state, is used to silence political opponents or inconvenient journalists. So is art. 196 of CC, about the so-called offending religious feelings.
Recently, the public all over the world has learned about what is happening in Poland when it comes to prosecuting ex officio persons inconvenient for the authorities and the Catholic Church – on the examples of a Polish musician, Nergal, and a writer, Jakub Żulczyk.
The musician was convicted by a Warsaw court (without a trial and hearing of the accused) for offending the religious sensibilities of Catholics by insulting the image of Mary. The writer and screenwriter Jakub Żulczyk was accused by the Prosecutor’s Office and will stand trial for insulting the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, for calling him a “moron”.
Many Poles support both the musician and the writer. The campaign to support Żulczyk quickly gained great popularity, particularly in social media. Internet users continue to share hashtag #DudaJestDebilem (meaning Duda is a moron), which at one point was the most popular hashtag on Polish Twitter. They also asked whether the prosecution will now accuse all Poles. ‘You will not sue us all!’ they wrote.
Pastor Chojecki is accused based on both of these laws.
Many lawyers from Lublin, initially interested, eventually refused to represent the pastor. A well-known lawyer from Warsaw, who got acquainted with the case, said without hesitation that someone in charge seriously wants to silence Pastor Chojecki – both for criticizing the authorities and for criticizing the Catholic Church.
The question of whether the Polish prosecutor’s office and courts should deal with religious disputes between one denomination and another remains open. And where, in all of this, are human rights, that is, freedom of expression and religious freedom?