This past February, BEHEMOTH frontman Adam "Nergal" Darski was convicted for offending religious feelings by a court in Warsaw. The charges stemmed from an image the Polish musician posted on social media showing a foot stamping on a picture of the Virgin Mary. At the time, Darski was ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 złoty (approximately $4,000) and court costs of almost 3,500 zloty (approximately $942). Darski later contested the judgement and the case was eventually dismissed.
This wasn't the first time Nergal had encountered legal problems in Poland related to his social media activities. Back in January 2018, it was announced that Nergal was being formally charged by Polish authorities in a case involving BEHEMOTH's "Republic Of The Unfaithful" tour artwork and merchandise, which was said to be "insulting" to the national coat of arms of Poland, a stylized white eagle with a golden beak and talons, and wearing a golden crown, in a red shield. Seven years earlier, Nergal was acquitted in Poland on charges he insulted religious sentiment when he called the Catholic Church "the most murderous cult on the planet" during the band's September 2007 performance in Gdynia and tore up a copy of the Bible, calling it "a book of lies."
"It gets painful, it gets more and more annoying," Nergal told U.K.'s Telegraph about his legal battles in his home country. "And trust me, I'm an energetic person, and I'm up for a fight. It just gets to the point where it's just stupid. Some of the accusations are just dumb, or completely irrational, and you can only laugh about it. It's like, seriously, you're gonna use your time and public money — because this is public money — to prove what? It's aimless. It's stupid.
"They would love to see their favorite scapegoat, which I am, to be metaphorically crucified," he continued. "They'd love to see me nailed to a tree [so they can say], 'Hey, if you're a bad guy, if you're an evil person — like yours truly — you're gonna end up paying, or being punished in some legal ways, or [find yourself] limited."
Poland is a predominantly Catholic country and the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's policies are strongly in line with Catholic teachings.
Article 196 of Poland's penal code says that "Whoever offends the religious feelings of other persons by publicly insulting an object of religious worship, or a place designated for public religious ceremonies, is liable to pay a fine, have his or her liberty limited, or be deprived of his or her liberty for a period of up to two years."
Amnesty International has previously called on the Polish authorities to repeal or amend legal provisions, such as article 196 of the Criminal Code, that criminalize statements protected by the right to freedom of expression.
According to Human Rights Watch, international human rights law permits states to impose certain restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression only if such restrictions are provided by law and are demonstrably necessary and proportionate for the protection of certain specified public interests (national security, public order, protection of health or morals) or for the protection of the rights of others (including the right to protection against discrimination).