PLOCK, Poland (AP) — Three human rights activists were standing trial in Poland on Wednesday, charged with offending religious sentiment by adding the LGBT rainbow symbol to posters of a revered icon and publicly displaying the altered image, including on garbage bins and mobile toilets.
The female activists were read their indictment in the district court in Plock, central Poland.
Before the trial, they argued that the LGBT rainbow added to the halo of the Black Madonna and Baby Jesus icon was intended to protest what they said was the hostility of Poland’s influential Catholic Church toward non-heterosexual minorities.
They do not admit to placing the images on garbage bins and toilets during their 2019 protest in Plock.
The activists could face up to two years in prison if convicted on charges of offending religious sentiment and desecration of the icon of Mother of God of Czestochowa, popularly known as the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.
The icon is housed at the city’s Jasna Gora monastery since the 14th-century.
A group of supporters with rainbow flags and banners reading “The Rainbow Gives No Offense” gathered outside the court.
Activist Elzbieta Podlesna was arrested in an early morning police raid on her apartment in 2019. She was briefly detained and questioned over the controversial posters of the icon being placed around Plock. A court later said the detention was unnecessary and ordered damages equaling some $2,000 be awarded to her.
The case has highlighted the clash in predominantly Roman Catholic Poland between freedom of speech advocates and laws against insulting religious beliefs.