WARSAW, Poland -- A Polish prosecutor has charged an IKEA manager with violating the religious rights of an employee sacked for voicing strong objections, within the company, to a corporate event supporting tolerance for LGBT people last year.
The Catholic employee at a Polish branch of the Swedish furniture and home goods retailer had allegedly cited Biblical passages suggesting that homosexuals deserve death.
The charges brought by the Warsaw prosecutor’s office Wednesday against the human resources manager can be punished by a fine or a prison sentence.
In a brief statement, IKEA's press office said it was cooperating with the prosecutor.
“As an employer, we will provide all the help and support to our charged co-worker,” the statement emailed to The Associated Press on Thursday added, saying the company did not want to comment further.
The development comes amid a broader cultural clash in the conservative and largely Catholic nation over LGBT rights. In recent years Poland's gay rights movement has become increasingly visible.
That has triggered a backlash led by the conservative governing party whose leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has denounced the movement as a threat to the country's youth and national identity.
With the issue prominent in public debate, IKEA declared days of solidarity with LGBT people last year. One employee voiced his objection in May on the company’s intranet by citing Biblical passages. IKEA at the time said the employee, a Catholic man only identified as Tomasz K., quoted Old Testament passages about death and blood being the fate that homosexuals deserve.
IKEA said then that the basis of the company's culture is freedom of opinion and tolerance but it could not accept behavior that excluded others.
Poland's justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, denounced IKEA last year, saying it was scandalous that foreign companies in Poland were discriminating against those who do not share their values.
A spokesman for the prosecutor, Marcin Sadus, was quoted by the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita as saying that the man who was fired felt that the corporate days supporting LGBT rights were contrary to his conscience and religious beliefs. He said the man's Biblical quotes were not an attack on any specific person.