Free Speech

Metal Musician Adam 'Nergal' Darski Fined by Polish Court for 'Offending Religious Feelings'

Behemoth frontman Adam 'Nergal' Darski was fined $5,000 for a 2019 social media post that showed him stepping on an image of the Virgin Mary.


Polish musician Adam 'Nergal' Darski, frontman for the extreme metal band Behemoth, has been sanctioned for violating his country's blasphemy law. This week, news broke that Darski had been found guilty by a Polish court of "offending religious feelings"—a crime punishable by fines and up to two years in prison—for a 2019 Facebook post that showed him stepping on an image of the Virgin Mary, a sacred figure in Roman Catholic Poland.

Darski received fines of 18,500 złoty ($5,000). English news website Notes From Poland reports that he has contested the fines and that his case will proceed to a full trial.

Poland's law criminalizing insults to religious feelings, Article 196, has long courted controversy for its restrictions on free expression. A Freedom House report describes the law as conflicting "with international standards on freedom of expression." Successful prosecutions under the law are rare, says Freedom House, but "the legal process involved is itself a deterrent that encourages individuals, notably artists, to engage in self-censorship."

Individuals can instigate Article 196 cases by filing complaints with prosecutors. It's a tactic that conservative pressure groups and right-wing politicians have used repeatedly against offending artists, musicians, and activists, and indeed against Darski himself.

In 2008, several members of the conservative Law and Justice party filed a complaint against Darski for his stage antics at a 2007 concert in which the frontman ripped up a bible on stage and called the Catholic Church "the most murderous cult on the planet."

Religious scholars consulted by prosecutors during the investigation determined that this was in fact an insult to religious feelings. Nevertheless, the case was eventually dismissed in May 2010.

Notes From Poland reports that Darski has two other offensive speech cases pending against him. One such case stems from a 2018 video he posted online of himself waving a fake penis attached to a crucifix. In another, Darski was accused of insulting Poland's national emblems for a Behemoth poster that featured an upside-down cross.

The legal harassment has yet to cow the metal musician. On Tuesday, he posted a defiant statement on Instagram about his most recent fines, saying, "Will I let superstition and fundamentalist dogmas capitalize on this and EVERY other case of the same nature? FUCK NO!"

Here in the U.S., the discourse over free expression has recently revolved around the issue of "cancel culture" and whether people—from a Star Wars actress to the host of The Bachelor—have been unjustly punished by their employers for their statements on social media and to the press.

No matter how frustrating or unfair individual instances of "canceling" might be, Darski's repeated prosecutions are a reminder that old-fashioned state censorship is still a live issue in much of the world. Given the occasionally punitive impulses of our culture and political discourse, we should be grateful the U.S. doesn't have laws that criminalize hurting people's feelings.

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  1. we should be grateful the U.S. doesn’t have laws that criminalize hurting people’s feelings.


    1. I give it about one more week.

  2. “Darski’s repeated prosecutions are a reminder that old-fashioned state censorship is still a live issue in much of the world”

    Yet another Reason article on free speech getting shredded and no mention, even in passing, of a man being prosecuted by federal authorities, and now facing ten years in prison, for the unthinkable crime of posting memes.


    1. Because they hate you personally Geiger and organize their entire day around specifically pissing you off by not covering your cherished things in the cherished ways you want them to.

  3. “A Freedom House report describes the law as conflicting “with international standards on freedom of expression.””

    What standards are these? Western European standards? Go to Western Europe and publicize yourself stepping on a photo of Mohammed or Martin Luther King, see how much freedom of expression the “international community” allows.

  4. This is hardly Poland’s first kerfuffle with Black Metal. For instance, there was Gorgoroth’s “Black Mass Krakow 2004”.

    “The concert featured sheep heads on stakes, “crucified” nude models, Satanic symbols and eighty litres of sheep blood. The band came under fire for violating Polish anti-blasphemy laws as well as Polish animal rights laws. A police investigation took place with allegations of religious offence (which is prosecutable under Polish law) and cruelty to animals.[3] Though these charges were considered, the band was not charged as it was ruled that they were unaware of the fact that what they were doing was illegal, although the concert organiser was eventually fined 10,000zł in 2007, as he knew about it and neither informed the band that it was against the law nor intervened.[4] The whole controversy led to the band being dropped from the roster of the Nuclear Blast Tour and the footage of the concert being confiscated by the police.[5]

    Behemoth couldn’t afford to buy this kind positive press, and for a Black Metal band, being accused of blasphemy by the government is like the greatest endorsement you can get.

    It also helps Black Metal as a genre, which has been getting kind of a bored response over the years. Being anti-Christianity these days is kind of beating a dead horse in most of the West. I’ve seen artists from eastern Europe defend the genre as still relevant as Christianity is still very much a part of the conversation both culturally and politically there, but for most Americans and western Europeans, watching Black Metal bands rage against Christianity is like watching punk bands rage against Reagan or Thatcher.

    That’s kind of over now.

    1. What, Sinead O’Connor ripping up a picture of the hope doesn’t get the same reaction?

      Maybe she should try drawing a cartoon of Muhammed.

      1. The only thing that everyone agrees needs to be torn up is state of the union speeches.

      2. Now if she’d ripped up pictures of the change …. woke would be all over her.

        1. Typo joke. Nicely done.

  5. So, what do you do if your religion requires that you insult other religions? Some kinds of Satanism are basically built around profaning things sacred to Catholics. Is this law itself not offensive to such a religious believer?
    Which leads to an even more interesting question: Can the existence of a law violate the same law?

    1. “No law shall prohibit other laws.”

  6. Interesting…

    The council, which operates the electric grid and manages the deregulated energy market for 75% of the state, issued emergency energy alert warnings in advance of the storm. But bitter-cold temperatures and a rare snowfall caused a surge in electricity demand and resulted in rolling blackouts as cold weather idled many of the state’s wind turbines and reduced oil and gas production. Electricity generators that rely on fossil fuels were also impacted.

    Spot electricity prices in Texas’ West hub spiked above the grid’s $9,000 per megawatt-hour cap. Power typically costs $25 per megawatt-hour.

    The surge in prices was equivalent to the cost of charging a Tesla reaching $900. A full charge costs about $18 while a typical charge is less depending on how much power was used.

    1. BTW, I’m still not 100% convinced of Bailey’s ‘fact check’ on wind power NOT being the problem in Texas. Here’s a warning from September:

      TX, which has virtually unlimited ultra-cheap natural gas, has significant blackout and price-spike risk because of its insistence on mandating unreliable wind electricity. The Public Utilities Commission of TX calls their grid’s margin for error (“reserve margin”) “very scary.”

      — sept 14

      2019 TX incident: “As wind power slowed, [Texas] instituted its first level of emergency alerts, calling on small industrial and commercial generators to pour power onto the grid, and requesting power from Mexico from which an additional 60 MW were imported on Aug. 15.” Power Mag

      1. Ouch $900.00 to fill up; that hurts.

        1. Shit, that’s more than it takes to fill the truck in California, and I’ve got two 120 gallon tanks. Not that I ever let them get that empty, or that I’d ever attempt a full fill in California.

          1. Well, ok, it’s not *much* more than 240 gallons of diesel at $3.70 a gallon.

      2. Certainly seems like some of the problem, at least. Of all the “green” energy sources, large scale wind seems like the dumbest. Enormously energy intensive to build and maintain and stops working when it’s icy.

      3. Same here. All that power that was not generated by frozen wind turbines and sunless solar panels used to be generated by fossil fuels or nuclear power. All equipment needs some down time.

        Suppose you have xGW coming from fossil fuels, and design in that 10% will be offline at any normal time, reaching 20% once in a while.

        Now you convert 1/4 your 80% to solar, guaranteed to be offline for this storm, and 1/4 to wind, which was half offline due to frozen turbines. Your 100% energy budget is now at 70%, below your normal 80% allowance,

        I just made up those numbers, but the principle applies. Wind and solar are unreliable and must be 100% backed up by fossil fuels or nuclear power.

        1. Right, that’s pretty much exactly how I see it. Pointing to the fact that some traditional sources of power are offline (or diminished) from the storm, doesn’t excuse the X% that’s guaranteed to be offline due to the storm.

  7. I am not offended by someone stepping on a picture of the virgin Mary.

  8. Gee, that sucks. At least he’s not facing 10 years in prison for it.

  9. Was the price worthwhile for getting rid of the communists?

    1. A lesser evil than communism is still an evil worth fighting. I believe this guy trafficked in bootleg tape trading in the 80’s as the commies banned western music including metal.

  10. I think the Catholics that are offended are to blame for letting themselves be offended. Being this sensitive should be a crime.

    1. It’s one thing to defend the “right to be wrong” and oppose blasphemy laws. All very libertarian, like the defense of the right to use heroin.

      But when we come to actual defenses of blasphemy (or heroin use) we’re going beyond libertarianism into actual libertinism.

  11. “Religious scholars consulted by prosecutors during the investigation determined that this was in fact an insult to religious feelings.”

    I’m sure it was a grueling deliberation process.

    1. And then they disclosed just how many angels CAN dance on the head of a pin.

  12. Well, it’s the law. And if you’re not doing anything wrong…derp derp.

  13. “Born Again” Christianity = The Original “Woke” Culture

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