WARSAW (Reuters) - An ultra-conservative Polish think tank on Friday inaugurated a university intended to mould future leaders who espouse the conservative Christian values that the nationalist government champions, and push back against Western liberalism.
The project reflects a wider backlash in central Europe against what many ruling politicians and right-wing commentators view as a tide of discrimination against conservative ideas and research.
Although independent of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, the think tank, Ordo Iuris, has gained prominence in recent years, and seen several of its former members reach senior positions in the Polish government and judiciary.
It offers legal aid to parents who oppose discussion of gay and lesbian rights in schools, and to local authorities that say they oppose "LGBT ideology" in order to preserve Poland's traditional Roman Catholic culture.
Ordo Iuris officials said their Collegium Intermarium, would mirror the Central European University (CEU), founded and funded by liberal-minded Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, in seeking to become a springboard for future leaders in the region.
"This is our undertaking: Integrating central Europe based on our cultural values and on our interests," said Tymoteusz Zych, vice-president of Ordo Iuris and dean of the new university.
The CEU was forced out of Hungary by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has accused Soros of trying to destroy European civilisation with his efforts to support immigrants. Soros says his support for refugees is a humanitarian mission.
"The new university aspires to the noble goal of creating an academic community that dedicates itself to protecting Christian conservative principles," said Gergely Gulyas, Orban's chief of staff, said on Friday.
"It aims to become a bulwark against human rights fundamentalism and political correctness that have become rampant in today's Europe."
Poland's education minister has proposed a law that would exempt academic teachers from disciplinary measures for expressing religious or philosophical views.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Kevin Liffey)