Poland rules in favour of printer convicted over refusing LGBT posters

WARSAW, June 26 (Reuters) - A Polish printer who refused to make posters for an LGBT foundation because of his religious beliefs should not have been convicted because workers have a right to act according to their conscience, a court ruled on Wednesday.

LGBT rights have become a hot-button issue in Poland ahead of an election scheduled for October or November, with conservatives depicting campaigners as a threat to traditional Polish values.

Adam J. was convicted of refusing to provide a service without a justifiable reason in 2017, provoking the ire of Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro who referred the case to the Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling. Ziobro also referred the case to the Constitutional Tribunal.

The Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that the law the printer was convicted under was unconstitutional, because punishment for refusing to provide services on the grounds of beliefs interfered with the service providers’ rights to act according to their conscience, PAP news agency reported.

“I am glad that my views and arguments were shared by the tribunal,” said Ziobro.

“I would like to say that everybody is entitled to freedom and nobody, using slogans of tolerance, should use the apparatus of the state to force others to violate their own freedoms, be it freedom of conscience, freedom of religion or economic freedom.”

However, Pawel Knut, a lawyer for the Campaign Against Homophobia, said the judgment weakened the level of protection.

“Unfortunately it’s a dark day for the history of the protection of human rights in Poland,” he said.

Similar cases have come before the courts elsewhere. In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court handed a narrow victory to a Christian baker who refused for religious reasons to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, while Britain’s highest court said a Northern Irish bakery’s refusal to make a cake bearing a pro-gay slogan was not discriminatory.

Under Polish law people charged with or convicted of crimes cannot be identified by their surname under most circumstances. (Reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by Alison Williams)