Poland activists acquitted over LGBT Virgin Mary

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Three Polish women have been found not guilty of offending religious feelings over posters depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo.

The activists displayed the images in 2019 in response to an Easter display describing "gender" and "LGBT" as sins.

The icon used in the artwork, "Our Lady of Czestochowa", is revered by many Polish Catholics.

The women would have faced up to two years in prison if found guilty in the case.

The case began in April 2019 when the women put up the posters and stickers around the city of Plock to protest against what one of the activists described as the "exclusion of LGBT people from society".

"Nobody should be excluded from society," Elzbieta Podlesna told the BBC at the time. "Sexual orientation is not a sin or a crime and the Holy Mother would protect such people from the Church and from priests who think it is okay to condemn others."

But the charges were supported by some politicians, with the country's then-Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski responding that "all that nonsense about freedom and 'tolerance' does not give ANYONE the right to insult the feelings of the faithful."

Activists have accused Poland of breaching EU obligations over its response to LGBT activists.

President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS), was narrowly re-elected to a second term in 2020. But during the campaign, he described campaigns for LGBT rights as "even more destructive" than communism and proposed including a ban on same-sex marriage and adoption in the country's constitution.

Poland does not currently recognise same-sex unions - whether those are marriages or civil unions. Same-sex couples are also legally banned from adopting children.

media captionPoland has been called the worst country in the EU for LGBT rights

Last year, three protesters were charged with desecrating monuments and offending religious feelings after hanging rainbow flags on statues during a demonstration against President Duda's anti-LGBT policies.

The EU also withdrew funding from six towns which had declared themselves "LGBT-free zones".

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