Polish Footballer Disciplined By Scots for Making Sign of Cross

By Peter J. Smith

GLASGOW, Scotland, August 28, 2006 ( – Scottish authorities have cautioned a Catholic goalkeeper for making the sign of the cross at a football match, saying the blessing with his other gestures constituted a “breach of the peace”.

According to the Crown Office, the goalkeeper of Celtic, Artur Boruc, gave three gestures, which incensed the home crowd of the opposing Rangers during a heated Old Firm match at Ibrox stadium in Glasgow. Artur Boruc, gave a “V” for victory and an obscene gesture toward the crowd; however the crowd also complained about Boruc’s crossing himself at the start of the second half of the February 12 match.

Artur BorucAfter an investigation, the Fiscal Procurator declined to take the case to court, but gave Boruc a caution, giving the Polish goalkeeper a criminal record.

A Crown Office spokesman insisted to the Sunday Herald that “It is not the fact he is crossing himself … It was his behavior as a whole that we took into account.”

The spokesman said the Crown Office wanted to emphasize that the caution was meant to warn Boruc that “gesticulating at and incensing the crowd at a football match amounted to the offence of breach of the peace and was unacceptable.”

The Sunday Herald reports Boruc has made the sign of the cross before every game and the start of the second half since he began his professional career.

The decision has upset both leaders and politicians because it appears that the Fiscal Procurator made no distinctions between obscene gestures and religious blessings.

Church spokesman Peter Kearney found the decision “alarming” and said, “It is extremely regrettable that Scotland seems to have made itself one of the few countries in the world where this simply religious gesture is considered an offence.”

According to the Sunday Herald, the Catholic Church is seeking the Crown Office to clarify “whether or not it deems the sign of the cross to be an offensive action which is the equivalent of gratuitous hand gestures”.

“This is not simply a Catholic issue but a human rights issue,” said a spokesman for the Church. “Freedom of religion is part of the UN Declaration on Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Alex Salmond MP, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, reviled the caution as “ludicrous” and wrote a public letter to the Lord Advocate demanding a clarification.

“This now requires urgent clarity otherwise we will be left with the unacceptable and unsatisfactory impression that in Scotland expressions of faith become a matter for the criminal justice system.

Salmond added, “I want a full explanation and immediate clarity from the Crown Office on this matter and the assurance that something as personal as a blessing does not get treated in the same way as gestures and taunts.”

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