According to Reuters, Poland’s Supreme Court has ruled that Adam “Nergal” Darski, frontman for Polish extreme metallers BEHEMOTH, committed a crime when 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.”
A lower court will now decide if Darski is guilty of the crime, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.
“[The decision] is negative and restricts the freedom of speech. The court decided that this is allowed in a democratic system,” Jacek Potulski, a lawyer for Darski, told Reuters.
He added, “We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements.”
Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the privately run Nationwide Defence Committee Against Sects, told Polish television about today’s court ruling, “The Supreme Court said clearly that there are limits for artists which cannot be crossed.”
Back in August 2011, a Polish judge ruled that Darski’s ripping up of a Bible during a show was a form of artistic expression consistent with the style of his band.
Judge Krzysztof Wieckowski said he considered Darski’s actions “a form of art.” He added that the court had no intention of limiting freedom of expression or the right to criticize religion.
The court said audience members who testified said their religious feelings had not been hurt despite the fact they were Christians.
After the 2007 incident, Nowak sued BEHEMOTH for promoting Satanism. Although a court expert witness on religious matters said that the act of destroying the Holy Bible could offend somebody’s religious feelings, the case was discontinued because no one except Nowak accused BEHEMOTH of insulting their religious beliefs. (Under Polish law, there must be at least two formal complaints before a charge is laid. The previous complaint was made in 2008, and recently an unspecified number of other complaints had been filed.)
In a 2009 interview with Decibel magazine, BEHEMOTH bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski explained that the Bible-tearing incident was by no means a spontaneous outburst. “We’d been doing that for two years on tour before it happened in Poland,” he said. “So, we had discussed it many times before. A BEHEMOTH show is a BEHEMOTH show, and BEHEMOTH fans are coming to a BEHEMOTH show. BEHEMOTH fans know what BEHEMOTH is about, know what the lyrics are about, and know at least a little of the philosophy behind the band. So, it’s kind of surprising that there are people coming to the shows and feeling offended with what we do onstage. If such a person comes to a show, he comes with the purpose of being offended, I guess, and it shouldn’t be like that. We’re not offending any particular person. We’re just offending the religion that we’ve been raised in.”
Polish-language TV report on today’s Supreme Court ruling:
BEHEMOTH’s Adam “Nergal” Darski tearing up the Bible: