Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Churches and Religious Communities in Poland with Particular Focus on the Situation of Muslim Communities

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Churches and Religious Communities in Poland with Particular Focus on the Situation of Muslim Communities

Article excerpt

Constitutional Law

Basic Principles

The relations between the State and Churches and other religious communities in Poland are laid down in the Constitution of the Republic of 1997, in the Concordat of 1993 between Poland and the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church, (1) in the statute on freedom of conscience and religion of 1989, (2) and in detailed statutes and regulations of various dates. There have been only a very limited number of respective court judgments, and the existing ones, like those in other European continental states, are binding exclusively in a given case and inter partes. (3) A brief look at the relevant portions of these documents, statutes, and judgments should provide a clear foundation for the ensuing discussion.

Among the sources of law concerning religious matters, Article 25 of the Constitution is of fundamental significance. As it refers to churches and religious communities, and not to individuals, it can be defined as a provision on collective religious freedom, while Article 53 refers to individual religious freedom. Article 25 reads as follows: (4)

1. Churches and other religious organizations shall have equal rights.

2. Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical, or in relation to outlooks on life, and shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life.

3. The relationship between the State and churches and other religious organizations shall be based on the principle of respect for their autonomy and the mutual independence of each in its own sphere, as well as on the principle of cooperation for the individual and the common good.

4. The relations between the Republic of Poland and the Roman Catholic Church shall be determined by international treaty concluded with the Holy See, and by statute.

5. The relations between the Republic of Poland and other churches and religious organizations shall be determined by statutes adopted pursuant to agreements concluded between their appropriate representatives and the Council of Ministers.

It is worth noting that the current Constitution of 1997, unlike Poland's previous constitutions, does not include in its preamble any direct reference to God. The first modern Polish constitution, that of 3 May 1791, stated explicitly: "The national predominant religion is and will be the Holy Catholic faith with all its rights; change of the predominant religion to any other is prohibited under the penalty of apostasy; but as the same Holy Faith commands us to love our brothers, therefore we take all people, of whatever belief, under government protection, and guarantee peace in faith in Polish lands, according to the statutes". (5) The so-called "March Constitution", adopted soon after World War I, had a preamble starting with an Invocatio Dei: "In the name of the Almighty God". This invocation was acknowledged to be acceptable for all Christian denominations, as well as Jews and Muslims. In the course of drafting the Constitution of 1997, debate over the content of the preamble arose during several meetings of the constitutional committee. (6) Finally, the first non-communist Prime Minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, proposed a statement which was quite long, but which satisfied all the participants. It read, "We, the Polish Nation --all citizens of the Republic, Both those who believe in God as the source of truth, justice, good and beauty, As well as those not sharing such faith but respecting those universal values as arising from other sources ..."

Formally, the Concordat of 1993, concluded between Poland and the Holy See, refers exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church. However, it is definitely an important source of ecclesiastical law more broadly defined. Although the government of then Prime Minister Ms. Hanna Suchocka signed the Concordat in 1993, it took five years for this treaty to be ratified by the Sejm. …

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