February 10, 2006


Polish leaders at vanguard of Europe's `culture war' (Tom Hundley, February 10, 2006, Chicago Tribune)

When he was mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski established his credentials as a Roman Catholic social conservative by banning the city's minuscule gay rights parade.

So it came as no great surprise that as Poland's newly elected president, Kaczynski would make his first foreign visit to the Vatican.

Perhaps more interesting is that his second trip abroad is to the United States. [...]

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, older by 45 minutes, heads the Law and Justice party, which won September's parliamentary elections. But instead of taking the top job as prime minister, Jaroslaw, who prefers to operate in the background, stepped aside in a bid to enhance his younger brother's chances in the presidential elections the following month. The strategy worked.

With Lech as president, Jaroslaw as the power behind the government, and Law and Justice increasingly allied with some of Poland's most reactionary fringe parties, the two former child actors now find themselves at the forefront of a budding "culture war" in Europe.

Both Kaczynskis have been outspoken critics of gay rights, liberal abortion laws and the failure of the proposed EU constitution to refer to God or Europe's Christian roots.

In his interview with the Tribune, President Kaczynski said his views were conservative but hardly out of the mainstream.

"Contrary to some people's opinions, I am not a radical conservative myself. I accept change in this world. I accept the right of people to have their own opinions, equal rights of women and changes in social mores. However, that doesn't mean that we should forsake family values," he said.

"Also contrary to what some people say, I am not for the discrimination against gays. They have the right to participate in public life. However, I am against the public display of their sexual preferences," he said. But many in Poland are concerned by the Kaczynski brothers' faithful embrace of Roman Catholic teachings on social matters, especially on homosexuality and abortion.

"This is a very reactionary, very conservative group, and they are scaring people in Europe," said Krzysztof Bobinski, director of Unia i Polska, a pro-European Union research center in Warsaw.

"Vanguard" is a nice touch for a people we left to Soviet clutches for sixty years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2006 6:15 PM
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