UK Independence Party Leader Was “Unaware” of Letter in His Name about Controversial Catholic Media Outlet

From the Observer:

In September, Polish free press campaigners produced a statement that they said was from [UKIP leader Nigel] Farage in support of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a Polish priest and founder of Radio Maryja and its associated outlets, whose stations stand accused of pumping out strongly antisemitic and homophobic material. Last year Rydzyk greeted the arrival of the first gay Polish MP with the words, “the sodomites are coming; it is a really grave matter”. The statement reported as having been from Farage expressed the Ukip leader’s “wholehearted support” and “encouragement” for the priest’s media outlets, which it said were involved in “a battle to preserve freedom and democracy in Poland”.

Last night a Ukip spokesman said that, although it accepted the statement had been circulated, Farage had not “written or signed” it and was unaware that it ever existed…

The letter can be seen here, and concerns a TV station, TV Trwam. It includes the following:

I wish to protest strongly, concerning the Polish Government’s discriminatory and repressive treatment of the television-company, TV Trwam, and to express my wholehearted support for Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk and his fight for media-freedom in Poland.

…The Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group has always, and consistently, been a strong advocate of freedom of speech and of media-freedom. 

…I appeal to all other political groups in the European Parliament to co-sign the present letter and to join me in requiring the Polish government to restore the freedom of the media and stop discriminating against the Catholic media in Poland.  Whether one agrees or not with the views of Fr Rydzyk and Catholic TV Trwam, the current situation of the media in Poland undoubtedly fails to meet recognised, democratic standards and should be a matter of concern for all of us.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Farage

The letter complains in particular of “the decision to exclude TV Trwam from the Polish Broadcasting Council”, which means that the station is also excluded from the country’s digital platform. The issue has been raised in the European Parliament, and a Polish-based blogger came across a protest in support of the station just today. According to an April report from the Polish Voice, TV Trwam has been excluded from the council over “lack of transparency in its funding”; supporters, however, claim that this amounts to suppression of religion and an attack on democracy.

The station’s complaint also has the support of the Polish Episcopate, although in 2006 and 2007 Radio Maryja was a cause of concern due to Fr Rydzyk’s influence. The Guardian reported in 2006:

As Pope Benedict prepared to pay his first visit to Poland last month, the papal representative in Warsaw called on the Polish episcopate to deal with the “nagging issue of Radio Maryja”.

Among those who accused the station of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in 2006 was Marek Edelman, is the last surviving commander from the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The following year, the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, called for a change of management at Radio Mayja and warned that the church risked becoming identified with the station. One media report  of the speech also noted remarks that were attributed to Rydzyk earlier in the year:

Rydzyk, in his alleged remarks, criticized President Kaczynski for bowing to pressure to compensate people – some of them Jews – for property nationalized by the postwar communist government, and for donating land for a future Jewish museum when Kaczynski was Warsaw’s mayor.

“You know that it’s about Poland giving $65 billion dollars to the Jews,” Rydzyk purportedly said in a recording that surfaced this summer.

“They will come to you and say: give me your coat. Take off your pants. Give me your shoes.”

However, the station does not object to all Jews, and in 2005 the self-described ex-gay “conversion therapist” Richard Cohen appeared on the station as part of a visit to the country from the USA. According to a report by Tomek Kitlinski and Pawel Leszkowicz from the time:

The Polish priest who hosted the program condemned “easy and cheap toleration, which is in fact a way of death.” Cohen accused gays of a world conspiracy, likened it to Communism, and exhorted: “I challenge you, Poland, to be a world leader in solving homosexuality!”

On Radio Maryja, Richard Cohen asked a rhetorical question: “One is not born homosexual-who would like to be born a leper in the society?” Gays, according to him, can renounce their unfortunate attraction, and only then do they become fully human… Poland’s most influential mass circulation newspaper, Gazeta Ryborcza, posted the Catholic Press Agency story on Cohen’s visit, without commentary: “Richard Cohen himself experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation.The decisive moment was. as he indicated, his meeting of Christ. Cohen who had professed Judaism became a Christian.”

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