Poland has added a new group – the Natural Church – to its list of officially recognised religious organisations. But religious studies scholars say that they have never heard of the body, which has almost no online presence.
The Natural Church, however, claims to have thousands of followers in Poland and says that its religion dates back 500,000 years – which is before humans existed.
— Rzeczpospolita (@rzeczpospolita) February 10, 2022
In Poland, religions are officially recognised by being added to a state register overseen by the interior ministry. That then grants them certain privileges, including tax benefits.
The newest entry in the register – becoming the 170th recognised religious organisation in Poland – is the Natural Church. However, the organisation and its head, Hanna Czubek, have no online presence. Its records list no website, and its registered address is in a nondescript tenement house in Gdańsk.
The church’s statute, which was obtained by the Rzeczpospolita daily, says that its mission is to “proclaim and spread the eternal, primordial, unchanging, and inherent divine rights contained in nature as the only truth given as a gift as the work of the Creator of the Universe”.
The newspaper notes that new religious associations periodically appear in the interior ministry’s registry of religions. But the Natural Church is the first to be added that is neither a Christian nor Buddhist community since 2013, when Worshippers of the Sun, an ecological faith group, was recognised.
The interior ministry refused to reply to Rzeczpospolita’s questions regarding the Natural Church’s doctrines, rituals and other aspects of religious practice. It said only that the organisation had “submitted relevant documents confirming [it] was founded to profess and spread religious faith, having its own system, doctrine and rituals”.
However, the newspaper did receive information from a representative of the church, who described himself as a member of its clergy.
He said that believers date their religion back to around 500,000 years ago. According to the available evidence, Homo sapiens only emerged around 300,000 years ago, and began to migrate out of Africa around 130,000 to 100,000 years ago.
Followers of the Natural Church believe in a Creator who is present in the form of energy in living beings, its representative added. The main element of their worship is daily celebration of energy as the emanation of the Creator.
The church estimates that it has more than 12,000 followers and over one hundred clergy, including four cardinals plus superiors in each of Poland’s 16 provinces, reports Rzeczpospolita. For comparison, the last national census for which results are available, in 2011, showed that Poland had 6,000 Baptists and 5,000 Muslims.
Yet two unnamed religious scholars the newspaper spoke to – specialists in new forms of spirituality and neo-pagan movements – said they had never come across the Natural Church.
Another expert – Paweł Borecki from the Institute of Religious Law at the University of Warsaw – noted that being entered into the register of religious organisations conveys a number of benefits, including preferential taxation and access to money from the state Church Fund.
Borecki added, however, that the interior ministry has limited options when it comes to rejecting applications which meet legal requirements because, as a rule, the state should be impartial in such matters.
In another long-running case, the ministry has refused to admit the Polish arm of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to the list of religious organisations. It says the group, which first applied for recognition in 2012, was founded not to profess religion but to parody it.
The Polish Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is taking the government to the European Court of Human Rights over its refusal to register them as a religion.
Last year Poland's Supreme Administrative Court rejected a final appeal against the decision https://t.co/Z6BXFiEQ7M
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 16, 2019
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.