The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.
The criminal code outlaws public speech that offends religious sentiment. The law prescribes a fine, typically 5,000 zloty ($1,613), or up to two years in prison for violations.
New guidelines announced in October provide for prosecuting hate speech found on the Internet. The guidelines facilitate legal action in cases of Internet content found to be offensive on racial, national, or religious grounds.
Citizens have the right to sue the government for constitutional violations of religious freedom, and the law protects against discrimination or persecution on the basis of religion or belief.
Specific legislation governs the relationship of 15 religious groups with the state, outlining their internal structure, activities, and procedures for communal property restitution. The 15 religious groups are the Roman Catholic Church, Polish Orthodox Church, Evangelical-Augsburg (Lutheran) Church, Evangelical Reformed Church, Methodist Church, Baptist Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Polish Catholic Church, Pentecostal Church, the Union of Jewish Communities, Mariavite Church, Old Catholic Mariavite Church, Old Eastern Orthodox Church, Muslim Religious Union, and Karaim Religious Union. Marriages performed by officials from one of these 15 groups do not require further registration at a civil registry office. An additional 158 registered religious groups do not have a statutorily defined relationship with the state. The law provides equal protection to all registered religious groups. In accordance with a 1998 concordat with the Vatican, the government and the Roman Catholic Church participate at the highest levels in a Joint Government-Episcopate Task Force, which meets regularly to discuss church-state relations.
Religious groups may register with the Ministry of Administration and Digitalization, but registration is not obligatory. Unregistered groups function freely without registration. To register, the law requires a group to submit a notarized application with the personal information of at least 100 citizen members, details about the group’s activities in the country, background about its doctrine and practices, a charter and physical address, identifying information about its leaders, a description of the role of the clergy, if applicable, and information on funding sources and methods of new member recruitment. The 173 registered religious groups receive privileges not available to unregistered groups, such as duty-free import of office equipment and reduced taxes.
The constitution gives parents the right to raise their children in accordance with their own religious and philosophical beliefs.
In accordance with the law on education and the concordat with the Vatican, all schools teach religion to students. All religious education instructors, about half of whom are Catholic clergy or nuns, receive salaries from the state for teaching religion in public schools. Religious education classes are designed for specific religions, and by law a school must provide a class for an individual religion if at least seven students in the school are interested in attending a class on that subject. Each religious group has the right to determine the content of its classes. Students may also request to take an ethics class instead of a religion class, and the school must provide an ethics class if at least seven students request it. According to the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, students in smaller schools, particularly in rural areas, often do not have access to alternate classes. When an alternate class is not available, students may opt to spend the class time in supervised study.
Four commissions oversee religious property restitution claims, one each for the Jewish community, the Lutheran Church, and the Orthodox Church, and one for other denominations. The commissions function in accordance with legislation providing for the restitution to religious communities of property owned prior to World War II that was nationalized during or after the war.
The government is a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Epiphany, Easter Monday, Corpus Christi Day, Assumption of the Virgin Mary, All Saints Day, Christmas, and St. Stephen’s Day.