regarding inconsistency of the Concordat with the Constitution

Pursuant to Article 79 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, the following Constitutional Complaint was filed with the Constitutional Tribunal on 19 March 1998:

We, the undersigned, are of the opinion that the ratification of the Concordat signed by the Government of the Republic of Poland on 28 July 1993 violates our constitutional rights and liberties. We are also convinced that both, the content of this agreement and the procedure of its adoption are inconsistent with the basic principles of the democratic state governed by the rule of law.

Grounds for complaint:

  1. Article 53 of the Constitution guarantees all citizens the right not to disclose their worldview, belief, or religion. The Concordat, which in Article 12 provides legal grounds for and broadens the scope of the practise of religious instruction in public schools and legalises placing the marks for religion on school certificates drastically restricts the enjoyment of this right and creates legal environment encouraging discrimination based on worldview or belief. Experience shows that non-denominational minority to which we belong is one of the groups that are particularly exposed to discrimination in Poland. Thus, the ratification of the Concordat violates this important right guaranteed in the Constitution.
  2. Various activities of the Catholic Church, including educating professional theologians, serve exclusively the internal interests of this institution, in particular the purposes of promoting catholic doctrine and discrediting alternative worldviews. Article 15 of the Concordat stipulates that the state shall be obliged to finance or to participate in financing of such activities, thus imposing on all citizens the duty to support one of the churches. This duty has been imposed also on us, who - in conformity with our conscience - cannot support any of the churches and/or religions. Thus, the Concordat violates constitutional principle of equality of all the churches and denominations as well as the principles of freedom of conscience and belief.
  3. All tax allowances and exemptions as well as other financial privileges of the clergy, granted to this wealthy social group mainly in the period of the last 10 years are inconsistent with Article 2, Clause 32 and Article 84 of the Constitution. Article 22 of the Concordat precludes the withdrawal of these privileges by a sovereign decision of the legislature and creates grounds for further privileges, thus sanctioning the practise which is inconsistent with the principle of equality of all citizens before law and state as well as with the principle of equitable participation in providing public revenues.
  4. Article 90 stipulates that international agreements in which Polish state authorities transfer some of its powers to an international organisation or other institution may be ratified only by the law adopted by two-thirds majority of the votes in both chambers of the Polish parliament. In our opinion the Concordat is undoubtedly the kind of agreement to which the above cited provisions apply to, while the law which allowed ratification was passed by a simple majority of votes. Thus, the ratification of the Concordat should be deemed inconsistent with the Constitution.

To our knowledge, during the constitutional debate in the parliament it was stated that the Catholic Church to which some of the powers of the state authorities are to be transferred in the Concordat (including the right to participate in decisions concerning any changes in the financial relations between Church and State) is not an international organisation. Such opinion is based on some kind of vague and narrow idea of what is an international organisation and, respectively, restrictive interpretation of Article 90 of the Constitution. That is why we turn to the Constitutional tribunal with a formal application to issue a binding interpretation of this constitutional provision, which was intended to safeguard the sovereignty and autonomy of Polish state.

In particular we petition the Tribunal for a legally binding interpretation whether it was intended by the legislature to permit - without the consent of the two-thirds majority of votes in both chambers of the Polish parliament - the transfer of certain powers of the state authorities to institutions or other parties which are independent from the Polish state and are not international organisations or institutions (e.g. foreign country). It is our opinion that the actual intention of the legislature was quite the reverse: the intention was to exclude such possibility altogether, allowing the transfer of some powers exclusively to international organisations or institutions. If so, the law permitting the ratification of the Concordat turns out to be inconsistent with the Constitution regardless of whether the Church is considered to be an international organisation or any other kind of organisation or institution.

Signed by: Hanna Ablewicz, Maciej Bartkowski, Jerzy Ciechanowicz, Bohdan Chwedeńczuk, Andrzej Dominiczak, Helena Eilstein, Jerzy Kossak, Adam Kotarbiński, Kazimierz KoŸniewski, Mateusz Kwaterko, Władysław Loranc, Krzysztof Lubczyński, Jerzy Ładyka, Lech M. Nijakowski, Leszek Nowak, Janusz Ostrowski, Zdisław Piœ;, Tadeusz Prugar, Alred Rachalski, Zdisław Słowik, Barbara Stanosz, Maria Szyszkowska, Dionizy Tanalski.

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