The Swedish Supreme Court has acquitted a pentecostal minister of charges he violated the nation’s hate-speech laws when he labeled homosexuality a “deep cancer tumor” on society during a sermon two years ago.
The court ruled Ake Green was free to espouse his religious views even if they were deemed offensive by some, though prosecutors said the high court’s decision will not lead to acceptance of “gay bashing.”
They noted the court recognized Green’s comments were made during a religious sermon and did not incite others to take harmful actions against homosexuals.
Green, pastor of a Swedish Pentecostal Church congregation in Kalmar, Sweden, initially was convicted by a lower court for violating the country’s laws against hate speech in 2004. But an appeals court overturned his conviction, citing his right to freedom of speech and religion. The high court ruled 5-0 to uphold the appeals court decision.
Green, 64, was the first pastor to be convicted under the new laws, which were amended in 2003 to include homosexuals.
The BBC reported Green had expressed little remorse over his comments, but in expressing relief at the high court’s decision said in the future he would curb his comments about homosexuals since – because of the international notoriety of his case – everyone now knows his sentiments on the issue.
The U.S.-based Alliance Defense Fund, which filed friends-of-the-court briefs in support of Green, called the high court’s ruling “a huge victory for religious liberty everywhere.”
“As David slew Goliath, Ake Green slew the radical homosexual agenda in this case,” said Benjamin Bull, ADF’s chief counsel. “We can only hope this will deter other attempts to censor Christian ministers from delivering Bible-based messages against harmful homosexual conduct. Ake Green is a hero, and we are grateful for his stand and his perseverance.”
In comments to Swedish Public Radio, Green said the court’s ruling was vindication of his and other preachers’ right to espouse what they see as the biblically correct view that homosexuality is anathema to traditional human behavior.
“This means we can continue to speak the way we have, and therefore it feels very good that they have ruled in a way that that there should not be any infringement in our way of preaching,” he said.
In testimony before the Supreme Court, Green said his sermon was meant as a warning to homosexuals that if they continued their lifestyle they would suffer “eternal divorce” from God.
“If two men sleep with each other, or if two women do so, it is abnormal, just like pedophilia,” he said.
Supreme Court Justice Johan Munck said the court was obliged to follow European Union guidelines.
“We believe that it is probable that a conviction against Pastor Green would not hold up in the European Court of Justice,” he said.