Polish reactionaries and EU liberals have more in common than they think.
It’s becoming a bit of a habit. Local authorities in Poland, this time in the mid-west city of Poznan, have banned a Gay Pride march, scheduled to take place this Saturday. The reason the local council give for denying people the right to free assembly and expression is that the march would be a, ‘serious danger to social order and property.’
A similar excuse was given by the then mayor of Warsaw, and now president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, when he banned (for the second year running) a similar parade through the centre of the capital this summer.
Of course, if you asked these politicians what the real reason is for such authoritarian behaviour they would tell you that they just find homosexuality offensive and ungodly, and don’t want to see such a parade in their city.
Polish human rights campaigners have argued that banning gay pride marches goes against the Polish Constitution. The European Union has warned President Kaczynski that he is going against human rights agreements signed by Poland.
Meanwhile, down at the EU parliament…
An anti-abortion exhibition entitled Life and Children in Europe ended in fisty-cuffs yesterday. Sponsored by MEPs from the League of Polish Families (LPR), the exhibition showed photos of unborn foetuses, and children in WWII concentration camps.
Enraged by the connection between terminations and Nazis, liberals and social democrats in the parliament, where the exhibition was being displayed, tried to take down the photographs. Security guards intervened when LPR members tried to keep the photos just where they were, and a fight broke out.
But the liberals succeeded in getting the offending material taken down.
Leader of LPR in the EU parliament, Maciej Giertych, said that he “never thought that the exhibit would be censored. I thought parliament was the place where controversial opinions were expressed.”
And, of course, he’s right. Just because someone doesn’t like opinions being expressed, or finds them offensive – like I do - is no reason to ban those opinions.
And that includes the actions of bigots in the local council in Poznan. Just because they find homosexuality offensive is no reason to ban a Gay Pride march.
Both the League of Polish Families and the liberals in Strasburg seem to agree that freedom of speech and expression is only permissible if that speech is not offensive to anybody.
But freedom of speech is not divisible. Both gays and anti-abortion activists have the right to press their case. And if people don’t like that case then they should be free to oppose it. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is becoming increasingly unfashionable, both on the left and the right of the political spectrum.
If I was the security guard at the EU parliament I would have left the MEPs to it. These days, bigots and 'liberals' deserve each other.
It’s not been a good week for European liberty.