Polish liberal stirs anger with call to remove cross from parliament

October 13, 2011

(Polish Parliament with its cross over the door on the left, July 1, 2011/Wojciech Olkusnik)

The leader of a new ultra-liberal party called on Thursday for the removal of a wooden crucifix from the Polish parliament but drew a frosty response from both the prime minister and the conservative main opposition party. Former vodka tycoon Janusz Palikot, whose party Palikot’s Movement surged to become Poland’s third largest political force in last Sunday’s election, wants the symbol removed as part of his drive to reduce the clout of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church is revered by many Poles for its role in the overthrow of communism two decades ago with the backing of the “Polish pope”, John Paul II. But a growing number of young Poles have balked at its influence in politics and everyday life. “We respect the religious character of the cross. That is why it should not be pulled into political disputes and should not hang in the parliament,” Palikot told a news conference.

Palikot’s party has scandalised conservative Poles with its support for abortion, gay rights and legalisation of marijuana. Its 40 newly elected lawmakers include Poland’s first transsexual MP and its first openly gay MP.

Tusk, whose liberal-conservative Civic Platform party (PO) won a second four-year term in Sunday’s election, chastised Palikot, a former PO lawmaker, for his proposal. “It makes a mockery of their calls for a friendly country to start their debut in parliament with a war over the cross,” Tusk said.

Read the full story by Chris Borowski here.

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