According to Reuters, Poland’s Supreme Court ruled that Adam “Nergal” Darski, frontman for death metal act Behemoth, committed a crime when when he called the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet” during the band’s September 2007 performance in Gdynia and tore up a copy of the Bible, calling it “a book of lies.” The case will now move to a lower court which will  decide if Nergal is guilty of the crime, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Let’s back up a bit…

Back in 2007, Behemoth, a well known and popular anti-christian death metal band was playing a show in Gdynia, Poland. Nergal then said some nasty things about the catholic church and ripped up a bible on stage. After the incident, Ryszard Nowak, head of the All-Polish Committee for Defense Against Sects sued Behemoth for promoting Satanism.

Offending somebody’s religious feelings and beliefs is a criminal offense under Polish law.

Nergal argued that what he does on stage is part of artistic license and it wasn’t supposed to offend religious feelings. Bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski commented  “A Behemoth show is a Behemoth show, and Behemoth fans are coming to a Behemoth show. Behemoth fans know what Behemoth is about, know what the lyrics are about, and know at least a little of the philosophy behind the band. So, it’s kind of surprising that there are people coming to the shows and feeling offended with what we do onstage.”

The case was dragged through Polish courts for years until  2010 when it was dismissed as “the defendant’s behavior wasn’t recognized as a crime.” I’m unfamiliar with Polish law, but the case seemed to have continued to circulate for a few years. Back in August 2011, a Polish judge ruled that Nergal’s ripping up of a Bible during a show was a form of artistic expression consistent with the style of his band.

However, just this week the courts decided that yes, Nergal did commit a crime directed at the Catholic church when he tore up that bible on stage 5 years ago.

Nergal’s lawyer commented that “[The ruling] is negative and restricts the freedom of speech. The court decided that this is allowed in a democratic system. We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements.”

I have to comment that I believe people should be allowed to do whatever they like in the name of freedom of expression, so long as they’re not physically hurting anyone. It is really unfortunate that in 2012 there are laws that limit expressions like so. Also, in a situation like this context needs to be considered. If he was tearing up a bible on a popular street corner than yes, it’s probably not ‘artistic’. But, they were at a death metal show. Even audience members who testified said their religious feelings had not been hurt despite the fact they were practicing Christians.

Makes you thankful for freedoms we are allowed in the United States.

The bible tearing incident