The popular Sweden-based furniture retailer IKEA is being sued after it fired an employee in Poland for posting Bible verses to voice his objection to the company’s promotion of "LGBT rights."
The former employee, identified only as Tomasz K., told state broadcaster TVP Info that he was let go from the store in Krakow after he declined to delete a comment he posted on the company’s intranet.
The comment in question was critical of an event the company hosted in May to show solidarity with the LGBT community.
“I was shaken up, I’ve been hired to sell furniture but I’m a Catholic and these aren’t my values,” Tomasz explained.
In a statement, the company said it published an article on May 16, the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, presenting IKEA’s “values and position” on the LGBT issues.
The statement added that the employee published a comment under the article voicing “his opinion in a way that could affect the rights and dignity of LGBT + persons.”
According to the Catholic News Agency, Tomasz posted two verses from Scripture in his objection to the company promoting homosexuality.
One verse was Matthew 18:6, which reads: “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.”
The other verse, Leviticus 20:13, reads: “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.”
The company further noted in its statement that many fellow employees contacted IKEA human resources about Tomasz’s post.
“The employee actually used quotes from the Old Testament about death and blood in the context of what fate should meet homosexuals,” the statement reads. “Many employees concerned by this entry contacted our HR department.”
The company’s statement explains that the “basis of our corporate culture is freedom of opinion, tolerance and respect for each employee.”
“Our human rights and equality policy, supported by our Code of Conduct, addresses in particular nontolerance for discrimination and exclusionary behavior,” the statement reads. “We respect people from all religious backgrounds and appreciate the fact that we are different. This does not mean, however, that we support exclusionary behavior in the name of any other view.”
“IKEA is an open-minded company. Among us are people of various beliefs, including many Catholics,” the statement added. “We respect each other, our views and religions. Everyone has the right to be themselves, feel safe and be treated on an equal footing, with respect, like any other employee.”
IKEA stressed that there is “no room” in the workplace for “violating the dignity of other employees.”
“We oppose and react when there is a risk of violating the goods or personal dignity of each employee. In our opinion, this was the case, which is why we decided to terminate the contract with the employee,” the statement continued. “I emphasize that views were not a problem, but a way of expressing opinions that excludes other people.”
Tomasz and his attorneys believe that his right to express his beliefs was violated.
He told the Polish state broadcaster that he was asked to remove the offending post but said that he “cannot censor God.”
“I do not think it was my duty,” Tomasz was quoted as saying. “[I] quoted two quotations from the Holy Scriptures: about stumbling and about the fact that the cohabitation between two men is an abomination.”
The conservative legal organization Ordo Iuris Institute is providing Tomasz with legal assistance. The organization filed a lawsuit in Krakow District Court, according to news.com.au.
The legal group argues that IKEA falsely implied that Tomasz was calling for violence when in reality he was just quoting from the Bible.
“The insinuation contained in the IKEA statement is unacceptable and violates Mr. Tomasz’s personal rights,” Ordo Iuris Chairman Jerzy Kwasniewski told news.com.au. “[It] can be read as motivated by prejudices against Christians.”
In addition to the lawsuit, Poland Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro ordered investigators to look into Tomasz’s case.
On Friday, Ziobro called the situation a “shocking matter.”
"It is absolutely scandalous if it was confirmed," Ziobro added, according to TVP Info.
Poland, which is about 87 percent Catholic, is run by the conservative Law and Justice Party. Law and Justice Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski warned last month that the advancement of gay rights is a “grave danger” for families, according to Bloomberg.
This is not the first time that IKEA has drawn the ire of Polish Catholics.
In 2008, some Polish Catholics boycotted IKEA after the home-goods chain featured a gay couple in its catalog.