The band Behemoth has always been blatant in their views about religion. All of their albums are pervaded with anti-religious and pro-Satanic lyrics, themes, and images. The band’s live shows are also filled with similar ideology, as frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski can’t go more than ten minutes without shouting some anti-Christian epithet that gets the crowd roaring. This has always been a risk for the Polish blackened death metal stars, since many areas of the world—including their own home country—protect the religious views of citizens under law. Behemoth experienced this firsthand when Ryszard Nowak, head of the All-Polish Committee for Defense Against Sects, attempted to sue the band in 2008 for tearing up a Bible onstage at a September 2007 concert in the city of Gdynia. In Poland, it is a criminal offense to offend a person’s religious beliefs, but in order for someone to be charged with such an offense, at least two complaints need to be filed. So the case was dismissed at that time. However, on Monday, March 8th, the case was re-opened and Nergal was formally charged after an unspecified number of other complaints were filed for the Bible-tearing incident. Nergal is pleading not guilty, but if found guilty, he will face up to two years of prison time.
The knee-jerk reactions of the metal community were predictable. Metal fans immediately cried foul, insisting that Nergal’s actions were protected free speech. A number of metal news websites began publishing stories decrying Poland’s laws as archaic and intolerant. Nergal’s own testimony under cross examination in the case’s first hearing was that his actions onstage are part of artistic license and not meant to offend religious beliefs.