Poland’s education minister has defended an official who warned that young people are threatened by an “LGBT virus” even more dangerous than COVID-19.
The words did not incite hatred, argues the minister, who reiterated that he and the government are opposed to “the propagation of an aggressive ideology” in schools by LGBT groups.
The original comments were made last week by Grzegorz Wierzchowski, the education superintendent in the Łódź Province, a position with responsibility for supervising schools and overseeing the implementation of education policy for the region of 2.5 million people
“I think that this LGBT virus, a virus of ideology, is much more dangerous” than coronavirus, Wierzchowski told Catholic broadcaster TV Trwam. “It is a virus [that] dehumanises society, dehumanises young people, taking away their value.”
“We are dealing with a dictatorship,” he warned. “A dictatorship of people who are in a clear minority and impose their ideology”, which is a “mutation of Marxism”.
Wierzchowski’s comments came to wider attention on Sunday, when he announced that he had been dismissed from his position by the education ministry.
Initial media reports speculated that the decision was a consequence of his anti-LGBT comments, despite the fact the government itself has led a vocal anti-LGBT campaign.
Later on Sunday, however, the education ministry clarified that Wierzchowski’s firing was unrelated to the LGBT issue. It stemmed from a request for his dismissal by the Łódż provincial governor Tobiasz Bochenski, made before the interview with TV Trwam, and was based on other aspects Wierzchowski’s work.
Nevertheless, many conservatives continued to criticise the ministry for the timing and manner of the decision. This included leading figures from United Poland (Solidarna Polska), one of the parties that makes up the ruling coalition, which has recently been seeking to push the government in a more hard-line direction on cultural issues.
The party issued a statement saying that it “fully shares the opinion of the education superintendent about the threat to Polish youth posed by aggressive and discriminatory LGBT ideology”. His dismissal has “caused great concern among our voters”.
Drużyna @ZiobroPL broni 🇵🇱Polski i Polaków przed 🏳️🌈agresywną lewicową ideologią #LGBT. @SolidarnaPL nie pozwoli na to, by ktokolwiek w Polsce tracił pracę przez to, że chroni nasze dzieci przed wulgarną ofensywą lewackich 🏳️🌈środowisk, które walczą z 🇵🇱wartościami!
— Janusz Kowalski (@JKowalski_posel) August 23, 2020
In response, the education minister, Dariusz Piontkowski, hit back, tweeting that “it is a pity our coalition partner did not want to find out the actual reasons for dismissing the superintendent”.
Now Piontkowski and other leading figures from the ruling camp have made clear that they support Wierzchowski’s reference to an “LGBT virus”.
The superintendent “did not call for any form of hatred” or “violence”, Piontkowski told TVN24 this morning.
“We are against the propaganda of these [LGBT] groups, we are against the propagation in schools of this…aggressive ideology from one community”, the minister continued, adding that Wierzchowski simply “expressed that in his own words”.
Yesterday, Ryszard Terlecki, the head of the parliamentary caucus of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, likewise confirmed that he “shares the curator’s view that LGBT ideology dehumanises society and that one needs to protect children from it – that’s obvious”.
Calling LGBT a virus “is not an insult”, said Terlecki, quote by Radio Zet. “It is a defence of a normal, peaceful majority against groups of anarchists, nihilists and moral revolutionists…intending to destroy normally functioning society”.
Bocheński, a government appointee, also confirmed that he agrees with the education superintendent’s views on “LGBT ideology”, which “seeks to destroy society as we know it”. Bocheński reiterated that Wierzchowski was fired for other reasons.
Left-wing politicians have, however, condemned Wierzchowski’s remarks – and members of the government for supporting them. Tomasz Trela, an MP from The Left, said that the comments marked a further step in a dangerous direction, with leading politicians now “comparing [LGBT] people to a virus”.
Poland’s ruling camp has since early last year led a sustained campaign against what it refers to as “LGBT ideology”. PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński has warned that this is a dangerous movement being “imported” into Poland from the West, “threatening our identity, our nation, [and] its continued existence”.
PiS has argued that “LGBT ideology” is a particular threat to young people, and in particular that modern forms of sex education in schools are used to “morally corrupt” children (and even prepare them for abuse).
During his recent successful re-election campaign, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, pledged to “defend children from LGBT ideology”, which he warned was “more dangerous than communism”. He also proposed a constitutional ban on same-sex adoption, describing it as “experimentation” on and “enslavement” of children.
The government has also sought to discourage schools from taking part in an annual “Rainbow Friday” event, at which children show solidarity and support for LGBT people. Last year, a deputy prime minister suggested that regulations should be introduced to prevent such events from taking place.
Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Gazeta
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.