Furniture store IKEA is facing a nation-wide boycott in Poland after firing a homophobic employee in their Kraków store over vicious anti-LGBT+ comments left on the company’s website. The Swedish brand’s actions sparked instant controversy in the country as government officials have demanded an investigation into the incident.
The employee, known as Tomasz, posted on the brand’s website that “the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and other deviations is a source of scandal” in response to the company’s celebration of IDAHOT Day (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia).
He then went on to quote from Biblical chapters Matthew 18:6 and Leviticus 20:13, the latter of which promotes the death penalty for gay sex. After receiving complaints from several employees, the company met with Tomasz, who was then sacked.
Tomasz has since gained support from Christian fundamentalist groups as well as Poland’s right-wing ruling party PiS (Law and Justice Party), who have previously commented that support for LGBT+ citizens in Poland would “attack families”.
Tomasz, who has commented that “I was shaken up, I’ve been hired to sell furniture but I’m a Catholic and these aren’t my values”, has now been offered legal aid from the PiS party, while the Justice Ministry has launched an investigation into the event.
Minister for Justice Zbigniew Ziobro has criticised the company, labelling them ‘homo-activists’ and denouncing their actions as “unacceptable and scandalous if confirmed”.
The brand is long-known to have supported the LGBT+ community, this year releasing a rainbow edition of their iconic Frankta tote bag, with 100% of proceeds going to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which advocates for equality for LGBT+ people.
However, in devoutly Catholic Poland, the situation for many LGBT+ people is precarious, with religious conservatism standing in the way of any advancement for LGBT+ rights. Earlier this year, fans at a football match in Warsaw unfurled a homophobic banner reading “keep Warsaw free from faggots”.
In light of the rise of the far-right party in the country, who have attempted to block any pro-LGBT+ legislation, IKEA are likely to suffer some consequences for taking a stand on behalf of its LGBT+ employees and patrons.
Another employee at the Kraków store was reported to have quit in the wake of the incident, saying, (sic) “if IKEA promotes equality and diversity towards people, why was this situation where the Catholic expresses his opinion and is thrown out of work for it?”.
IKEA have issued a statement, standing by their decision, saying, “we respect people from all religious backgrounds and appreciate the fact that we are different. This does not mean, however, that we support exclusionary behaviour in the name of any other view”.
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