A Catholic employee at an IKEA store in Poland was fired after he posted violently imaged scripture passages on the store’s internal Facebook group, in response to an article relating to the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The employee, identified as Tomasz K., posted the text of Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them”; and the text of Matthew 18:6 “Woe to him through whom scandals come, it would be better for him to tie a millstone around his neck and plunge him in the depths of the sea,” He also commented that “acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and other deviations is a source of scandal.” [Editor’s Note: An explanation of the Leviticus quotation and other scriptures which seem to condemn LGBTQ people can be found by clicking here.]
IKEA said in a statement that their reason for firing Tomasz was for “using quotes from the Old Testament about death and blood in the context of what fate should meet homosexual people.” The store managers said that many concerned employees contacted the human resources department after seeing the comment.
An article on Bloomberg.com stated that Kataryzna Broniarek, head of IKEA corporate communications, that their company’s culture is based on the “freedom of ideas, tolerance and respect for each employee but the company has to react when it sees risk of breach of dignity of other employees.”
An IKEA spokesperson told news.com.au that while the company respects and welcomes people of diverse faith backgrounds, “using your religion as a reason for excluding others is considered discrimination.”
The store’s statement also said that it strives for “respecting our individual differences and creating a safe environment for all. Everyone’s views and opinions are elcome with the common goal to build a great place to work.
“This involves taking a stand on which types of behaviours and expressions are in line with our values and ambition for equality and which are not. Personal behaviours and expressions in the workplace cannot intrude on someone else’s personal sphere.”
However, Tomasz stated to TVP.info that since IKEA “promotes equality and diversity towards people, why was there this situation where ae Catholic expresses his opinion and is thrown out of work for it?” This dispute led to Polish Catholic bishops supporting Tomasz and accusing IKEA of “LGBTQ indoctrination.”
Some people believe that this dispute may be linked to sentiments of Poland’s political sphere, which has been strongly anti-LGBTQ. Shortly before this incident, Jaroslaw Kacznski, a politician in the governing party, said that the advancement of gay rights is a “grave danger” for Poland’s families and the future of the European Union.
Tomasz has since filed suit against IKEA, alleging religious discrimination and wrongful termination. He stated that working at IKEA was about selling furniture and not “represent[ing] the ideology of its owners.” Prosecutors in Poland are investigating IKEA, and members of the nation’s governing party are suggesting a boycott of IKEA.
Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, commented on the case:
“This story is a classic example of a religious liberty vs. LGBTQ equality dispute, but it is one that could easily have been avoided if the employee, who was so intent on expressing his faith publicly, would have used common sense by not quoting the Bible out of context, and not quoting it to people who do not accept the scripture’s authority. Obviously, non-believers–and even some believers–are going to pick up on the violence imaged in these texts, and the store managers rightly acted to protect their employees and customers from someone who used holy language so inappropriately and violently. “
Catholics can continue to play a role in embracing differences by showing others how embracing the LGBTQ community can fulfill Jesus’ commandment of “loving your neighbor as yourself.”
—Marisabel Alonso, July 20, 2019