| Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
Poland was the epicenter of the Holocaust during World War II. Several million people, half of whom were Jews, were killed. The Polish government is still working to restore property taken both during the war and the country’s Communist era.
Anti-Semitic sentiment still persists among some people in society and in marginal political parties, but the government publicly denounces any acts of anti-Semitism and works to promote religious freedom.
Poland has a population of 38 million people. Among these, over 94 percent belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Other prominent religious groups in the minority are Polish Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, and Greek Catholic. It is also estimated that there are around 20,000 Jews, and 25,000 Muslims in Poland.
The Constitution of Poland was amended in 1988 to guarantee equal rights to citizens irrespective of religion; freedom of conscience, belief and religious practice; and separation of church and state. Infringement on these rights is punishable, as is the "spreading of hatred or contempt, the provocation of disputes, or humiliation..." based upon religion.
Fifteen religious organizations have a relationship with the state in which their structure and activity is governed by legislation. There are another 157 registered religious organizations that do not have a defined relationship with the government. The government and the Roman Catholic Church work together at the highest levels in a Joint Government-Episcopate Task Force according to the 1998 concordat. There has been some controversy between the relationship with the government and the Catholic Church. For example, of the 3,063 claims the church filed to restore property taken during Nazi and Communist rule, 2,843 were either fully or partially concluded. Of the 5,504 claims the Jewish community filed, only 1,908 had been concluded.
The Polish nation does not have a recent tradition of religious freedom or an established body of civil rights law to protect the rights of small religious minorities. The Catholic Church exercises considerable power. State-run radio broadcasts Catholic masses and the Catholic Church is the only body other than NBC which is authorized to relicense radio and television stations to operate on frequencies assigned to it. Public schools provide religious education classes at state expense. This instruction is provided primarily by representatives of the Catholic Church, although in some cases, upon request, instruction is provided in the Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish faiths which are legally registered with the government. While students are supposed to have the option of taking an ethics course instead, in most schools, such courses do not exist.
The 2010 US State Department Report on Human Rights stated, "Citizens enjoy the freedom to practice any religion they choose. Religious groups may organize, select and train personnel, solicit and receive contributions, publish, and engage in consultations without government interference." While this is the case for established religions which are legally recognized by the Polish government, new and small religious groups face obstacles and difficulties in practicing and promulgating their beliefs. In 2010 three additional religions were registered with the government: the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Mother See of Holy Etchmadzin in the Republic of Poland, and the Tibetan Union of Bon “Sa Trik Er Sang.”
The Polish government has declared the Unification Church to be a dangerous sect and has published literature attacking the church. Public schools also teach against the Unification Church. The church is not allowed to publish or distribute literature, hold public meetings or speak in public. Registration for the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), a student organization founded by Reverend Moon, as a campus organization has been denied the right to organize on campuses.
2010 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Poland
Poland - New World Encyclopedia
Poland Country Profile- BBC News