Ordo Iuris: the ultra-conservative organization transforming Poland
Formally launched in 2013, Ordo Iuris had just over 20 employees in 2019 (according to Ordo Iuris activity reports), but few who follow Polish politics have not heard of it.
The rise of the conservative legal group since then has been nothing short of astounding. His latest financial statements claim an annual income of over 6 million Polish zloty (over 1.3 million euros), an amount that has almost doubled since 2016 alone and overshadows the small sums the group had in its launch year.
âIt’s very symbolic that their offices are now in the PAST building in central Warsaw,â says Bak, referring to what was once the city’s tallest building that played a key role in the Uprising in Warsaw. Warsaw and is today managed by an association of veterans of the Second World War. âIt’s a sign of how powerful they have become. They not only have the money to do whatever they want, they have access to all the key institutions and media, and while the Catholic Church initially moved away from them, they are now cooperating.
So who exactly is Ordo Iuris and how did they become so influential?
The group’s stated objective is “to promote a legal culture based on respect for dignity and human rights”. However, this should be interpreted as something different from the traditional international legal conception of rights: for Ordo Iuris, today’s predominant human rights discourse is a form of “fundamentalism” – an external imposition. by the Western powers disguising a âMarxistâ program aimed at destroying the âtraditional familyâ and the ânatural lawâ that Ordo Iuris strives to safeguard.
“A cartel of billionaires and billionaire-funded NGOs has been trying to rewrite the concept of human rights in order to promote a radical socio-constructivist agenda for some time,” Agnieszka Jacob, director of international relations, told BIRN at Ordo Iuris. in an interview. âHundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in recent years to exert influence over politics, the media and, most alarmingly, the European institutions. This enormous financial and organizational enterprise led to the creation of a sort of linguistic and legislative institution ‘Land of Taka Tuka‘. “
âThe whole debate turned sour. No one on the left is ready to discuss the traumatic consequences of abortion affecting the lives of millions of women, ranging from post-abortion syndrome to depression, or the well-oiled money printing machine known as abortion industry, âsaid Jacob. “None of them are willing to debate the sickening abuse of tissue from aborted babies for Frankensteinesque interspecies experiments, i.e. scalps of babies transplanted to rodents or the links of their ideas with eugenics. “
Polish journalist Klementyna Suchanow described in her book 2020, It’s the war, how Ordo Iuris was founded with the participation of people from the Piotr Skarga Association, the Polish representative of the ultra-Catholic network of Brazilian origin Tradition, Family, Property (TFP), which was accused of being a religious sect in many countries . Ordo Iuris and the Piotr Skarga Association both use the TFP Golden Lion logo, they cooperate in actions and have active individuals in both groups.
While the representatives of Ordo Iuris have recognized In the past receiving donations from Piotr Skarga, the group tries to distance itself from the TFP network and create a distinct public profile in Poland – that of a group of independent legal experts.
The founding of Ordo Iuris coincided with a time when ultraconservative groups across Europe began to coordinate their goals and strategies within the Agenda Europe structure, with the participation of American and Russian actors.
The 2016 planning meeting of the network took place in Warsaw, with Ordo Iuris as the host. This coordination explains why favorite themes such as the restriction of abortion, the definition of marriage as strictly heterosexual or the limitation of access to sex education come up repeatedly in the advocacy of conservative groups across the continent, with campaigns in different countries often using the same images, language and arguments. .
With increased coordination also came money. A report published on May 15 by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, titled “The tip of the iceberg”, documents how funding for ultra-conservative groups active in Europe has steadily increased over the past decade. Report author Neil Datta identifies more than $ 700 million that was paid to anti-gender groups in Europe between 2009 and 2018, including 11% from US sources, 26% from Russians and the rest of Europe.
Ordo Iuris has insisted that all funds come from individual donations and denies receiving any money from large Russian or American groups. Jacob repeats this line in the interview with BIRN, pointing out that the organization’s budget comes from individual donations, mostly small amounts.
âWe are one of the few NGOs in Poland to have some kind of democratic legitimacy, because we represent the interests of thousands of Polish citizens,â she said. “We don’t depend on billionaire philanthropists or foreign organizations, we depend on making sure our donors are kept up to date on our vast activities and see that their money is well spent.”
No proof has yet been made public that Ordo Iuris receives funds from large American or Russian groups. However, a 2020 international journalistic investigation published in Poland by onet.pl took a closer look at the finances of the Piotr Skarga association, which detailed the group’s extremely lucrative fundraising model based on sending religious paraphernalia to petitioners and asking them to do a donation. This has enabled the group to fund partners throughout the Central and Eastern European region and even on other continents.
In 2015, when the PiS came to power in Poland, Ordo Iuris was already well established within European and international ultraconservative networks, with which he was refining his objectives and tactics. Conservative messages resonate in Polish society anyway, where Catholicism is still very influential and the Church is conservative, but a government like PiS offered significant opportunities for future growth.
PiS has from the start operated on a platform mixing nationalism and anti-Western discourse with pro-family and pro-social policies. This fit very well with Ordo Iuris’ main agenda of protecting the âtraditional familyâ. When the refugee crisis was over and the PiS needed a new scapegoat, the anti-LGBT discourse produced by the ultra-conservatives proved to be very useful: the analysis of activists from the Atlas of Hate collective indicates that anti-LGBT municipal resolutions have been actively used by the PiS. politicians during the election campaign.
Not only has the PiS opened up a wider space in the Polish public debate for the themes of the Ordo Iuris, but it has also made room for its staff in government structures. Aleksander Stepkowski, one of the founders of Ordo Iuris and its first president, was Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the first PiS government. He is currently spokesperson for the Polish Supreme Court.
Remigiusz Bak lists a series of other people closely cooperating with Ordo Iuris who hold positions in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Family and Social Policy.
Although it has not been proven that Ordo Iuris directly benefits from public funds (unlike his peers in Hungary), recent report by OKO.press highlighted the role of Tymoteusz Zych, Ordo Iuris’ vice president, on the board of the National Freedom Institute, a public body that funds NGOs.
According to the investigation, the National Institute of Freedom awarded grants to groups whose activity may be related to the Ordo Iuris. The group also appears to be attracting the interest of wealthy people in Poland: according to another report from OKO.press, one of the founders of Collegium Intermarium is PZW Investments Limited Liability Company, founded by Pawel Witaszek, former vice president of a major Polish mineral water producer.