21 Feb 2019

Polish scouts under fire for asking their members to respect homosexuality

Polish right-wing media and NGOs have been accusing the largest Polish scouting organization of “LGBT propaganda”, and have even asked the country’s president to “intervene” in the matter.

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Polish scouts under fire for asking their members to respect homosexuality - NewsMavens
Polish scouts, www.zhppgk.org

According to news articles and other published materials, The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego in Polish, ZHP in short) is "promoting homosexuality and other deviations", "spreading homopropaganda", carrying out "homosexual indoctrination", and "fighting for privileges for the LGBT subculture".

The NGO Center for Life and Family (Centrum Życia i Rodziny) has created a website “Rainbow ZHP” containing an online petition listing a collection of the allegations against the scouting organization and to requesting ZHP’s authorities to cease "homopropaganda and sex education in ZHP". It has gathered 16 thousand signatures. The NGO has also urged the President of Poland to intervene.

The Center for Life and Family’s efforts are supported by the ultra-conservative think-tank Ordo Iuris, which has recently published a report titled "Concerns Related to a Growing Presence of the LGBT Subculture's Ideology in the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association". Among other alarmist claims, it singles out mentions of homosexuality in the organization's documents, meetings with LGBT people, and misreads a document on intimate situations and sexual education, claiming that some activities described in the document as normal for a certain development stage are being "encouraged" by the organization (e.g. masturbation, watching pornography).

What is the claim?

The trigger for the campaign was a brochure for scout leaders published by the ZHP,  which contains some general remarks on respect towards non-heteronormative people. The brochure states, among other things, that "Non-heteronormative persons (homo- and bisexual) can also be members of ZHP and acquire ranks and positions in the organization". That has been read by the campaigners as a green light for people “practicing homosexual lifestyle” to become scout leaders.

The petition website claims, among other things, that:

The authorities of the Polish Scouting Association (ZHP) are corrupting children and young people with homosexual propaganda and sex education. (...) The main headquarters of the ZHP publishes a textbook that allows practicing homosexuals to work as educators of children and youth.

What are the facts?

The document in question is called Forge of the Spirit (Tężnia ducha) and was published as a brochure for scout leaders about spiritual education in ZHP. The 30-page long document presents the place of religious and spiritual themes in ZHP's activities/programs, the organization’s attitudes towards spirituality and an overview of other scout organizations’ relationships with teachings of several world religions.

There is a single page in the document titled “All Different, All Equal”, which is specifically devoted to the topic of respect towards non-heteronormative people. Among other things, it says that “dignity and value of a person do not depend on their sexual orientation” and that “as scouts we have an obligation to respect homosexual and bisexual persons”

This page has been interpreted by the campaigners as a declaration that the organization has decided to “allow practicing homosexuals to be educators of children and youth”.

However, the brochure Forge of the Spirit (Tężnia ducha) is a handbook for scout leaders and not a regulative document, so it cannot “allow” anything per se. More importantly, heterosexual orientation has never been a requirement for obtaining a leader’s rank -- the matter of sexual orientation of the scout leaders in ZHP was never regulated in the first place. In an interview for Vogue magazine, Helena Gil, a bisexual Polish scout leader, has pointed out that non-heteronormative scout leaders have been present in the organization since before the publication of the brochure.

Gil, however, also stated that LGBTQ matters are still a somewhat difficult topic in ZHP. In response to the outrage, the ZHP spokesperson underlined respect for otherness as one of the organization's values, but also declared that the controversial brochure would be reconsidered and republished later.

Whatever the ZHP’s reaction to the backlash is, the fact remains that the campaign waged by Centre for Life and Family and Ordo Iuris is based on misinterpretation of both the content and status of one document, which simply states that non-heterosexual people should be treated with the same respect and not be discriminated against.


The campaigners’ selective and inaccurate approach to LGBT matters in the largest Polish scouting organization is a case of manipulation of facts and biased reporting, and their alarmist attitude towards non-heteronormative people is an example of intersectional discrimination.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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