Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hate crime or free speech?

Today in Sweden, a pastor of a Pentacostal church is going before the Supreme Court appealing his conviction of a hate crime for a sermon he gave on July 20, 2003 where he denounced homosexuality. In June of 2004 he was convicted and sentenced to one month in jail. That conviction was overturned this year on appeals. The Swedish government is appealing that decision.

Original story here.

Åke Green: Encyclopedia shows I’m right
On trial for his statements about homosexuals
Today, Pentecostal pastor Åke Green’s case was heard by the Supreme Court.
Afterwards, the pastor’s supporters marched in a demonstration to Sergels square in central Stockholm.
“There is a police escort, but it is a very peaceful and completely quiet march,” says a correspondent for Aftonbladet.
The police had moved RFSL’s counterdemonstration to Södra latin near Norra square a stones throw away.
In the sermon Green is under trial for the pastor said, among other things, that AIDS and HIV are the result of homosexual behavior.
In the courtroom today, he maintained that the National Encyclopedia supports this idea.
Is it freedom of speech to say derogatory things about homosexuals in a sermon? Or is it a crime?
In a district court, the Free Church pastor Åke Green was sentenced to one month in prison for his sermon. An appeals court reversed that decision.

“Regret nothing”
The proceedings in the Supreme Court began today—which took place in the secure chambers of Stockholm’s courthouse for the day.
Pastor Åke Green arrived on time for the hearing. Right before the hearing he was asked by TT whether he regretted anything he had said.
“No , I do not. What I wanted was to have a discussion about this issue and that is what we’ve got. I think that the homosexual lifestyle is abnormal and I think I have the right to say that,” he answered.
Outside of the secure courtroom a group of people had gathered—some to show support, others to protest.

Demanding prison
The representative for the Attorney General, Bureau Chief Stefan Johansson, demanded that the pastor be sentenced to prison time. In the courtroom he read parts of the sermon Åke Green delivered. Among others, he read the sections where Green claimed that many pedophiles “began as homosexuals.” Stefan Johansson also repeated those sections of the sermon where the pastor says that AIDS began with homosexuals, and that homosexuals are “lost people,” inclined to have sex with animals.
Johansson tried at several points to get Green to say that they were his own words and his own viewpoint that was put forth in the sermon. Grenn would not concede this point—he maintains that God gave him the thoughts and words.

“Other sources”
The Attorney General’s representative, Stefan Johansson, put the question to pastor Green where in the Bible doe sit say that homosexuality is the reason for HIV and AIDS.
“I have used other sources,” Answered Åke Green and explained that he had gone to the library and looked in reference books—among them The National Encyclopedia—to get support for his statements.
Johansson persisted: “But there is nothing in the Bible about that?”
“The Bible says that diseases can arise from a sinful lifestyle,” answered Green.
Pastor Åke Green also suggested that a homosexual cannot be a Christian. If the he or she doesn’t have any sexual relations, that is another issue, according to Green:
“Then the person, of course, isn’t homosexual,” he said in the court.
The pastors defense lawyer argued that the appeals court decision should be upheld. The lawyer said that a ruling against his client could mean indictments for many religious leaders.

Mia Carron


boredoom said...

This is pretty interesting. At first I was a bit shocked that the consequence of a conviction would be that Sweden has criminalized the publicly stated opinion that certain passages in common translations of the Old Testament are standards to live by.

But then I remembered all the genocide, incest and general xenophobia in the Old Testament, and realized that our values of have moved past it long ago.

Still, I prefer the U.S. application of freedom of speech to the European one.

boredoom said...

Update: the pastor was acquitted.

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