Poland now enjoys freedom of
choice in religion
By Ben Walker
May 3, 2006 | Citizens of the United States enjoy certain
freedoms. The country is based on these freedoms. The
very first amendment to the Constitution lays out some
important ones. Included in this amendment is the freedom
Today, the United States is a melting pot not only
for different cultures, but for different religions.
Early settlers left their homes and came to America
to worship in the way they thought to be correct.
In the seventeenth century, freedom of religion was
a novelty. In the nineteenth century, Communist movements
prevented the practice of any religion in countries
such as Russia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. But not
Poland. While the Soviet Union ruled over the Poles,
Polish people continued to practice their national religion
of Roman Catholocism. It had, after all, been their
national religion since 966 AD.
The Roman Catholic Church even chose Karol
Wojtyla, a Pole, to become John Paul II, the first
non-Italian Pope in 455 years.
Throughout this time, most Poles chose to be Catholic.
"Personally, I was able to practice in the Catholic
Church," said Tomek Tokarz of Warsaw. "People involved
with the Communist party, the army, police were the
ones who had limits."
"They didn't close our churches, but they couldn't
say whatever they wanted to say," said Natasia Skoberla,
a Catholic Pole who lives in Logan and moved to the
United States seven years ago. "And they would always
say good things about Russians."
Some say that since Catholocism was the only choice
for Poles, they really didn't have freedom to choose.
Brandon Berrett, a student at the University
of Utah, argues this point. He spent two years in
Poland as a missionary for the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I think people always need freedom to choose, and
you only have that freedom when you actually have a
choice to make," Berrett said. "The fact remains that
after nearly 16 years of choice, most people still remain
with their traditional faith in Poland."
Approximately 90 percent of Poland's 38 million citizens
"You get to be exposed to more religions here than
in Poland," Skoberla said.
The Soviet Union was dissolved in late 1991. The Berlin
Wall came down. Churches began pouring into Eastern
Witnesses had already established a footing in Poland.
Protestant churches such as the Methodists and Baptists
began preaching to the Polish Catholics. Buddhists and
Hindus began vying for Polish converts. Poland had religious
Jarek Adamczyk, a non-Catholic Christian youth leader
in Krakow, Poland, said, "In 1992 and 1993 there was
a big growth in churches. Every church grew and the
whole society was interested in it."
Adamczyk said the interest in the new churches has
dropped off generally and the new generation of Poles,
which doesn't remember Communism, doesn't care about
"When it's harder, there is greater faith," Adamczyk
Despite the possible dropoff in religious interest,
religious groups continue to preach. The majority of
them are Christians, preaching to a Christian nation.
Such a group is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. At any given time, the LDS Church has about
110 missionaries preaching in 12 different cities in
Poland. A new group of missionaries enters the country
every two months and another group heads home. The Church
averages about 100 convert baptisms every year and claims
But why are these Christians preaching to one of the
most Christian nations in Europe?
"Christian ideology is very diverse," said Lewis Hooker,
a former LDS
stake president who served a mission in Poland with
his wife. "Differences can be extreme. The type of body
God has would be one, the Godhead would be another.
The Poles need to be exposed to new ideas and to understand
others' views. Eventually they may be able to accept
"I didn't choose to go to Poland as an attack on the
Catholic Church or anyting like that," Berrett said.
"The right to have a differing viewpoint is one that
has only been opened up recently in Poland, and hopefully
will not only stay, but grow and diversify."
So while Catholocism continues to dominate the Polish
religious scene, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists and Latter-day
Saints continue to preach to the Poles with limited
"Generally, I think it's better that we can choose
a church that is right for us," Tokarz said. "All churches
propose good over evil. In this sense, it's better that
there are more churches."
Tokarz was raised a Catholic, but he and his wife
became Latter-day Saints in October 2004. "I was convinced
of the truth of this church," he said. The gospel and
activity in the church have a positive influence on
me and on my family. I realize that people in our church
aren't any better or worse than others."