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Professor Ryszard Legutko ordered to apologise Wrocław secondary school students

The Circuit Court in Cracow found Prof. Legutko, a former conservative education minister, currently a member of the European Parliament, in breach of the personal interests of two Wrocław secondary school students. Mr Legutko had called them, among other things, “snots spoilt by their parents” and named their actions “a typical, infantile  tantrum”. The Court ordered Ryszard Legutko to publish an apology and make a charitable contribution of PLN 5,000.

The claimants, Zuzanna Niemier and Tomasz Chabinka, were at the time students of a graduation class at General Education Secondary School No. 14 in Wrocław, a city in the south-western Poland. In November 2009, in the aftermath of the Lautsi vs. Italy judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, the students  submitted a petition to their headmaster, asking for the removal of religious symbols from the school.

The headmaster decided that the symbols would remain in classrooms. As he explained, Polish legal regulations allow schools to display religious artefacts.

The case attracted substantial press coverage. Professor Legutko referred to the student’s petition in an interview, calling the petitioners “snots spoilt by their parents”. The students brought an action against Mr Legutko, seeking protection of their personal interests. The parties to the lawsuit tried to reach settlement but  ultimately the case went to trial.

The Court contended that the students’ initiative to hold a debate on the presence of  crucifixes in schools was well placed in the context of the pan-European discussion on the place of religion in the public life. The Court noted that  in the modern democratic state ruled by law worldview pluralism is of the essence.

The Court held that the Professor’s remarks addressed at the students had been deeply unfair, excessive and inappropriate. The court decided that the statements of Professor Legutko were arbitrary and pointed out to the fact that the harmful words  had been spoken by an authority, university teacher and member of the European Parliament who should have been cautious in publicly expressing his opinions.

“We are pleased with today’s court decision. In our opinion, the claimants’ personal interests have been infringed and Mr Legutko’s statements disproportionate,” commented the ruling Irmina Pacho, coordinator of the HFHR’s Strategic Litigation Programme.

The Counsel for Professor Legutko said that his client would appeal against the decision.

The case has been conducted as part of the Strategic Litigation Programme operated by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. The claimants are represented by the advocate Anna Maria Niżankowska-Horodecka, acting pro-bono.

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