A Polish pop star derides the Bible

In 2010, Polish singer Doda was charged with “offending religious feelings” after she said she believed more in dinosaurs than the creation story in the Bible. Annabelle Chapman considers the case.

The case

In 2009, Dorota Rabczewska, a Polish pop singer popularly known as “Doda”, gave an interview to an online newspaper. In the interview, she stated that she believed more in dinosaurs than in the creation as presented in the Bible. She explained, “It is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes.” Doda’s comments caused an outcry among Poland’s predominantly Catholic population, but the judicial authorities did not think they warranted legal action.

However, following pressure from conservative groups, an investigation was launched in April 2010. Doda was charged with, “Offending religious feelings through public calumny of an object or place of worship” (in this case, the Bible), under Article 196 of Poland’s penal code. Two Bible scholars and a linguistic expert were consulted during the trial to ascertain whether Doda really had offended religious sentiment. Doda could  have faced a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment but was instead fined 5,000 zlotys (£970).

Author opinion

Doda should not have been charged. She spoke about the Bible disparagingly, using disrespectful language, and it is understandable that this caused offence in Catholic Poland. Doda has a reputation for acting provocatively, and it seems that these comments were just another way of drawing attention to herself. Nevertheless, she was simply expressing an opinion, and the legal action against her cannot be justified.

The outcry was only so strong because Doda is well-known in Poland, with many young fans. Comments made by an ordinary person – or about another religion – would not have provoked this response. In the long run, resorting to legal action against offhand comments made by a pop star may do greater harm to the Catholic faith in Poland than the comments themselves. Such attempts to censor all unorthodox comments, even the most flippant are a sign of weakness rather than strength.

- Annabelle Chapman

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Comments (6)

Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

  1. The problem is much more complicated than described in case text. Doda’s reputation is well known in Poland, as she became famous for having an intercourse shown on TV (in bigbrother-like show called Bar) since then her career went on two ways: one widely promoted pop star, other a controversial celebrity.
    The worth notifying moment of her career was engagement with frontman of black metal band. The mentioned Doda’s act took place after that – at the time of Doda being promoted in public media (which are under constant attack of both main sides of political scene in Poland and after each parliament elections are usually the first place of changes).
    The Doda’s sue was just one of actions as crime notification (first step of lawsuit process) was sent by people associated with ultracatholic movement which also is a social fundament of second strongest party in Poland and biggest political opposition.

    Obviously Doda should have been rather sued under the civil law than criminal.

  2. I can tell what priests are saying in Poland in public, that Church is holy. This a begging and the end of any discussion. Lets not think about what Vatican or Church thinks because it will lead us nowhere and instead enforce respect for non-believers (thinkers).

  3. If the CAtholic Church of Polaand deems that the singer maligned or questioned any story in the Bible, do they, the Church, not have faith in the Truth of its text? Why should the Truth be afraid or offended? But it appears rather that the Church is fearful that it is Doda who has the truth on her side. Of course the story of the creation of Adam and Eve is a fairy tale. But it is very poetic, and should be accepted and read as such. Has the Church ever explained why a rib?

  4. I cannot see that such a factual statement should cause dismay, even among Christians. That dinosaurs existed is a fact of nature. The story of the creation of the universe as narrated in Genesis is open. The story of the creation of Adam and Eve is laughable nonsense. And similarly the stigma attached to every subsequent human being born by the supposed ‘original sin’ is a disgrace and an affront to human intelligence. The Church has come to accept that the Earth goes round the sun, and that man is not the special creation of God. When is it going to accept that the supposed Holy Ghost is a myth?
    On the other hand, when Doda says: “It is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes” , I counter by saying that that is no reason, or a test, for not believing what they say.
    One of the main problems of free speech is posed by people who deliberately set out to offend and provoke others by their views. An honest expression of one’s views should always be met by an equally honest expression of opposite views.
    Is the Church afraid that its Truth will turn out to be not the Truth?

  5. The case is very simple. There should be no law against “religious feelings”. This “law” is a manipulation of a fact that there are no rational reasons to defend religious symbols. This platform can be a great tool to check where in Europe we have such absurd laws and advocate to rule them out as quickly as possible.

  6. The main problem, Perogrullo dixit, is zero tolerance. The main solution, in this, as in other similar cases, will be, to teach non religiuos ethics during the first school years. My ideas is as good as impossible.
    Arnoldo Kraus, Mexico

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      I don’t understand what you say. The religious people should be educated in ethics because they prosecute atheists and free thinkers and often kill them.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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