By Terry Vanderheyden
STOCKHOLM, November 29, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Sweden’s Supreme Court has acquitted Pastor Ake Green of a charge of inciting hatred against homosexuals.
The 5-0 ruling, handed down today, maintained that Green’s sermon was protected by freedom of speech and religion. Green had been convicted and sentenced by a lower court in 2004 for his so-called hate speech. While the media have falsely claimed that Green referred to homosexuals as a “cancerous tumor” on society, Green told the courts he was referring to homosexual acts, not persons. In fact, the only similar reference in his 2003 sermon was this line: “Sexual abnormalities are a deep cancerous tumor in the entire society.” (Read the full sermon here: http://www.akegreen.com/sermon_transcript.htm) An appeals court later overturned the conviction.
Green told Swedish public radio after the ruling, “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 there should not be any infringement in our way of preaching,” according to an AP report. “I don’t take back what I said,” Green said at his Supreme Court hearing November 9.Â“I still think we should be able to voice our convictions without ending up in jail and if that happens I will be showing how ridiculous things have got.”
Chair of the court, Justice Johan Munck, commenting on the case, said that the judges had taken into consideration earlier judgements passed down by the Court of the European Union in Strassbourg, France.Â“If Ake Green had been convicted for incitement due to his sermon, then in all probability Sweden would have been rebuked in the European Court,” Munck said.
In an interview with Swedish Radio/Television, Munck added, “Considering the circumstances at hand, the Supreme Court finds that it’s likely that the European Court – if it were to adjudicate the case – would find it to be a violation of the European Conventions if Ake Green were convicted due to the statements in his sermon.”
Green, pastor of a Swedish Pentecostal church in Kalmar, Sweden, was given a 30-day suspended sentence in July, 2004, by a Swedish court for inciting hatred against homosexuals. He was prosecuted in January 2004 for “hate speech against homosexuals” for his sermon. In February 2005, an appeals court overturned the conviction, saying it is not unlawful to preach ones beliefs from the pulpit. See http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/feb/05021105.html
Sweden’s chief prosecutor disagreed with the appeal court’s conclusion, claiming the sermon did in fact amount to hate speech, and ordered a review of the case.
Green was initially convicted under Sweden’s new hate crimes law, enacted in 2003, which makes illegal any expressions of “disrespect” or “incitement”“towards a group of people,” including groups with “sexual inclinations.” Those who contravene the hate crimes law can be subject to up to two years in prison. If a statement against any particular group is “especially threatening or disrespectful” or “disseminated to a large number of persons,” the crime is considered “major” and the perpetrator can be subject to up to four years in prison.
“Thank God there is some semblance of normalcy here,” commented Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition Canada and vice-president of the International Right to Life Federation. Hughes said he was very happy with the decision, emphasizing that “Democracy; the rights of churches to speak up . . . all of these things have been aided by this decision.”
Hughes said he is very concerned with the way things are going – particularly in Canada, where “It started with the Canadian government telling pastors that they could not invoke the name of Jesus Christ” at a memorial service for passengers of Swiss Air Flight 111 that went down over Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. Hughes related similar events, where Christian pastors, for example, were instructed not to pray at a memorial service for victims of the September 11 terrorist attack in New York City, attended by 80,000 at Parliament Hill. Hughes described such actions by Canadian officials as “nonsense.”
On the other hand, the Swedish ruling is a sign of hope, he said. “It’s a very positive ruling and we thank God for it.”
Focus on the Family Director of International Government Affairs Yuri Mantilla, an international human-rights attorney, also welcomed the news that Ake Green was acquitted by that nation’s highest court:
“Today we have seen Sweden’s Supreme Court uphold true human rights, the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Pastors across that country can now exercise their human rights, without fear of going to prison for transgressing the hate-crimes law used to prosecute Pastor Green. The ruling is consistent with natural law and norms recognized by the international community, which a lower court had violated with the conviction of Pastor Green.”
“It is important to understand exactly what was at stake with this case: the defense of fundamental human rights and a precedent that sets a standard regarding the right to religious freedom and the right to freedom of expression. The effort to send Pastor Green to jail is an example of the dangerous implications of pro-homosexual legislation. Today’s ruling is a victory for those who believe in true human rights and in the key importance of religious freedom around the world.”
See related coverage:
Swedish Pastor Defends Sermon on Homosexuality before Supreme Court
Homosexual Hate Crime Trial of Swedish Pastor Used as an Opportunity for Evangelization
Swedish Pastor Sentenced to Month in Prison for Preaching Against Homosexuality