Constitutional Court rules in favour of printer who refused to print LGBT posters

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The Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that the law the printer was convicted under was unconstitutionalTVN24 News in English
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Poland's Constitutional Tribunal (TK) on Wednesday deemed the article of the Misdemeanour Code assuming punishment for premeditated and unjustified refusal of service as unconstitutional. In 2017, a printer from Łódź refused to make posters for an LGBT foundation because of his religious beliefs, for which he was sentenced by a court of first instance. In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling by the local court and later on rejected Poland's justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro's appeal against the decision. The minister then decided to turn to the Constitutional Court.

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The Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that the law the printer was convicted under was unconstitutional, because punishment for refusing to provide services on the grounds of beliefs interfered with the service providers' rights to act according to their conscience, PAP news agency reported.

"I am glad that my views and arguments were shared by the tribunal," said Ziobro.

"I would like to say that everybody is entitled to freedom and nobody, using slogans of tolerance, should use the apparatus of the state to force others to violate their own freedoms, be it freedom of conscience, freedom of religion or economic freedom," the minister added.

"Wednesday's ruling by the TK poses a serious challenge for the legislators. The parliament must now shape the law in the way that would prevent segregation of clients," said Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak from the Equal Treatment Office at the Commissioner for Human Rights Office.

"The Article 138 of Polish Misemeanour Code played a very important anti-discriminatory role in Polish legal system. Polish human rights ombudsman receives a lot of complaints regarding unequal treatment of customers when it comes to access to services," she added.

She emphasized that "freedom to run business is an important constitutional principle, however, in line with the law, it may be subject to limitations". "The Human Rights Commissioner's stance is that entrepreneurs' freedom to conduct business cannot violate dignity of their potential clients or their right to equal treatment," explained Błaszczak-Banasiak.

"It means that a businessman cannot refuse to provide service because of client's personal traits such as: sex, age, race, nationality, disability or sexual orientation. Let's try to imagine real consequences of this ruling. Are we ready to tolerate factual segregation of clients on the service market? Are we ready to accept restaurant or shop owners refusing service to clients because of the colour of their skin or their creed?," she asked.

In May 2017, the Regional Court in Łódź sustained the ruling by the District Court for Łódź-Widzew, and found Adam J. guilty of misdemeanour of "premeditated and unjustified refusal of service he was legally obliged to provide", according to Article 138 of Misdemeanour Code.

This court also abstained from setting punishment and stressed, that regardless if the case was about refusing to print out a roll-up for LGBT foundation or a poster for pro-life movement, it should be judged exactly the same. On the grounds of erroneous understanding of freedom of conscience.

In September 2017, the Prosecutor General submitted the reversal in favour of Adam J. "I find this ruling wrong, as it violates the constitutional rule of freedom of conscience," said Zbigniew Ziobro.

He added: "It’s not about any prejudice against one community or the other. It’s about the principles."

He pointed out, "everyone today has a choice, especially when it comes to such common services like printing. If someone is refused service, they may go to the competition".

In June 2018, the Supreme Court rejected the justice minister's appeal against the ruling in the printer's case. Ziobro then decided to refer the case to the Constututional Court.

Autor: gf / Źródło: TVN24 News in English, PAP