PRAGUE (JTA) — Conservative Polish lawmaker Miroslaw Piotrowski’s invitation to a controversial priest to speak in Brussels has led to a split among the European Conservatives and Reformists group, or ECR.
Tadeusz Rydzyk’s anti-Semitic views voiced on his Radio Maryja and TV Trwam stations have led to condemnation over the years from Jewish groups, the Vatican and Polish Solidarity co-founder Lech Walesa.
The recent invitation was a response to the revocation of Rydzyk’s TV channel license, leading Polish members of ECR to organize a rally against state media censorship. Rydzyk also was invited to speak in parliament last year during a conference on climate change and environmental issues. Poland is under heavy scrutiny due to the Euro 2012 soccer championships and fear of potential racism among fans.
According to The Guardian, some British Tory lawmakers are indignant that one with extreme anti-Semitic opinions has been invited to speak. London’s Tory lawmaker Marina Yannakoudakis wrote to fellow Polish lawmakers in protest.
“I support free speech, but believe that we must draw the line at those like Father Rydzyk who promote anti-Semitic or xenophobic teaching," The Guardian quoted Yannakoudakis as saying in her letter. "As such, I ask you to never invite Father Rydzyk to the European parliament again.”
The Guardian report also indicated that despite strong denial of the invitation having no connection to the ECR by the chairman of the European Conservatives, Martin Callanan, the group played a significant role in publicizing the event. ECR logos were seen in promotional material and emails, and an ECR press officer promoted the priest’s speech.