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WARSAW (RNS/ENInews) Polish Catholic leaders have defended the right of Catholic schools not to hire gay or lesbian teachers after human rights groups called for a government minister who supports the policy to resign.
“We must defend someone’s right to declare their views and convictions publicly,” Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper. “Under both state and church law, Catholic schools must clearly state the norms under which they take on teachers.”

The archbishop was reacting to criticism of Elzbieta Radziszewska, the government representative for equal treatment, after she confirmed that Catholic schools are free to dismiss gay or lesbian staff members.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, a former secretary to Polish-born Pope John Paul II, praised the minister for defending the rights of Catholics.

“Catholic schools must defend themselves. They are Catholic precisely because they want the moral values presented by the Catholic Church,” the cardinal told a radio interviewer. “They cannot accept values they don’t identify with, so they can indeed refuse employment to a declared lesbian.”

Radziszewska’s statement to a Catholic newspaper about gay employees was criticized as a violation of Poland’s anti-discrimination laws by Poland’s Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the country’s Anti-Discrimination Rights Association.

The head of the Anti-Discrimination Rights Association, Krzysztof Smiszek, said the minister’s “hurtful statements” conflicted with European Union norms and risked creating “a climate allowing homophobia”.

Grzegorz Schetyna, the speaker of Poland’s lower house of parliament said he thought the minister had “gone beyond a certain limit” and risked “causing trouble for the political class and the state”.

Polish Catholic leaders opposed clauses in the 1997 constitution that barred discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Gay rights groups say anti-gay violence has been met with silence in the country, which has been accused of tolerating homophobia by Amnesty International and the European Parliament.

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