(Biblia Gda?ska — the Bible in the Polish translation of 1632, picture taken 20 June 2007/Robert Drózd)

Poland’s Supreme Court has opened the way for a blasphemy verdict against a rock musician who tore up a Bible on stage, a case that has pitted deep Catholic traditions against a new desire for free expression.

Adam Darski, front man with a heavy metal group named Behemoth, ripped up a copy of the Christian holy book during a concert in 2007, called it deceitful and described the Roman Catholic church as “a criminal sect”.

His supporters say it was an act of artistic expression, but conservatives say he offended the sensibilities of Catholics in Poland, the homeland of the late Pope John Paul II and one of the religion’s most devout heartlands in Europe.

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.