June 25, 2024

City’s new policy is aimed at ensuring the “neutrality” of public office

Poland’s capital has instructed civil servants not to display crucifixes and other religious symbols at Warsaw City Hall, sparking backlash from conservative groups. 

According to the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, officials will not be permitted to hang crosses or crucifixes on the walls or keep them on their desks. Government employees will still be allowed to wear crosses while at work, however. 

The new rules are part of a broader set of regulations aimed at combating various forms of discrimination. Officials have been instructed to use gender-neutral language, address people by their preferred pronouns, and not discriminate against same-sex couples. “Warsaw is the first city in Poland to adopt such a document,” City Hall spokeswoman Monika Beuth said.

Some politicians and religious groups have argued that such regulations are inappropriate in a predominantly Catholic country.

“I think this decision is unnecessary,” said Szymon Holownia, the speaker of the Polish parliament. “I have found a large number of crosses on the walls of the Sejm. While I personally will not hang crosses in public offices, I don’t think that today in Poland we need a war on whether crosses should be taken down from walls.” 

Conservative member of parliament Sebastian Kaleta promised to ask the prosecutor’s office to check if the capital’s policies violate any laws, while Catholic activist group Ordo Iuris urged people to send complaints to the city hall.

Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski defended the new rules and blasted “the hype in the media.” He explained that the guidelines were put in place to ensure an inclusive environment and uphold Poland’s secularism.

“Everyone has the right to their faith, or the lack thereof. This includes civil servants and clerks. [But] anyone who comes to the office to handle their business has the right to feel that he or she is in a neutral office. As simply as that,” the mayor wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. “No one intends to wage a battle against any religion in Warsaw.” 

Speaking at a news conference, Trzaskowski said the regulations would not apply to hospitals, schools and social welfare centers. He further clarified that although the guidelines bar religious ceremonies from taking place in government buildings, they will not apply to “traditional historical celebrations,” such as the commemoration of the 1944 uprising of Warsaw citizens against the Nazi occupation during World War II.

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