A Swedish pastor who preached a sermon on the Biblical prohibitions against homosexual behavior is waiting to see if the Supreme Court of Sweden will send him to jail for six months for doing so.
Ake Green, the pastor of a small-town Pentecostal church, delivered his sermon in 2003 and has been in the prosecutor’s crosshairs ever since. Charged with violating a Swedish hate speech law that protects homosexuals from “intimidation” and “agitation,” he was sentenced to a month in jail last year by a district court. An appeals court overturned his conviction, but the prosecutor has appealed to the Supreme Court and has asked that the 68-year-old pastor’s jail term be increased to six months.
The Supreme Court heard arguments this month and is expected to rule sometime next year.
Pastor Green’s sermon, entitled “Is Homosexuality Genetic or an Evil Force that Plays Mind Games with People?”, carefully cites Bible passages demonstrating that sodomy, in the eyes of God, is a sin. He warns that Sweden, because of its embrace of homosexuality, may be in acute danger of God’s judgment. He teaches that persons guilty of this sin, by repenting and relying on God’s grace, can be freed from bondage to it and saved.
The pastor backs up everything he says with verses from the Bible. At no point does he advocate violence against homosexuals, condone hatred or rejection of them, or recommend any action but prayer and the preaching of the gospel (for the complete text, see http://www.faithandaction.org/10604Oscarsson.htm).
Nevertheless, homosexuals complained and the prosecutor went into action. This is because Sweden has a law that “prohibits the expression of ‘disrespect’ towards favored minority groups,” explained Jared Leland of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (www.becketfund.org), who has written a “friend of the court” brief that has been accepted into the record by the Swedish Supreme Court.
The Becket Fund, Washington, D.C., is an official nongovernmental organization (NGO) that consults with the United Nations.
“Pastor Green’s entire speech was based on Biblical interpretation,” Leland said. “It does not threaten anyone; it does not call people to action to place the public order in disarray.”
The Swedish law, he said, is similar to a notorious Pennsylvania law against “ethnic intimidation” under which 11 Christians were arrested and jailed in Philadelphia last summer when they tried to preach at a city-funded homosexual street fair. A city judge dismissed the case.
“Ultimately what’s at stake here is religious expression,” Leland said. “A religious expression was made that offended a prominent minority, and the offense was in the eye of the beholder.
“The issue is not homosexuality. It’s religious expression and conviction, and the right of preachers to preach about religious interpretation from the pulpit.”
Leland wrote an article in defense of the pastor. It was widely published in Sweden last year, and the response surprised him.
“It got a very hostile response from Swedish newspaper columnists,” he said. “They all say, ‘You don’t understand our culture. This man should go to jail for two years — not six months!’”
The Becket brief to the Swedish Supreme Court argues that Sweden’s hate speech law and the prosecution of Pastor Green violate international treaties and conventions on human rights signed by Sweden.
This is “of concern” to the Swedish government, said Claes Thorson, press counselor at the Swedish Embassy in Washington.
“This is the first time this law is being tested in court,” Thorson said. “I believe the pastor deliberately tried to test the law.”
The intent of the law, he said, is “to safeguard minorities … and I believe it does.”
Sweden is interested in the survival of Christianity in Sweden, he said, adding that he did not believe the prosecution of a preacher for preaching constituted a threat to the church.
Meanwhile, he said, “Hundreds of people have been calling us [at the embassy]” to protest the government’s action against the pastor. (Note to the reader: to add your voice to the protest, phone the Swedish Embassy at 202-467-2600.)
By trying to silence the pastor, Leland said, Sweden has violated Articles 18, 19, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty Sweden signed in 1971. According to the Becket Fund brief, this treaty guarantees “the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion” (Article 18), freedom of expression (Article 19), and the protection of religious opinion (Article 26).
“We are only making sure that Sweden stands up for principles she signed on to,” Leland said. “Sweden is a country that really does care about its international image. Sweden does want to maintain a respectable image.”
Sweden isn’t the only European country where, in spite of international human rights treaties, opposing the homosexual agenda can be dangerous.
In England in 2002, an elderly man named Harry Hammond appeared in public carrying a sign that read, “Stop immorality. Stop homosexuality. Stop lesbianism.” Mr. Hammond was assaulted by hecklers, who knocked him down. When the police arrived, they arrested Hammond, not his attackers. Under the Public Order Act 1986 — which makes it a crime to display any sign or placard that might give offense within the sight or hearing of anyone likely to take offense — Hammond was fined 300 pounds, plus 395 pounds in court costs.
In this case, comments Issues & Views, “the Human Rights Act proved as useless in the defense of traditional values as it is useful in advancing radical ones.”
In Ireland, as reported in the Irish Times, August 2, 2003, “Clergy and bishops who distribute the Vatican’s latest publication describing homosexual activity as ‘evil’ could face prosecution” under Ireland’s 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act. Ireland is a mostly Roman Catholic country, but the promulgation of church teaching on homosexuality strikes the Irish Council for Civil Liberties as a potential criminal offense.
This fall, the European Union threatened Poland with the loss of its EU voting rights unless Poland’s new president abandoned his opposition to “gay rights.”
Many countries, Leland said — including those with seats in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, like Sudan, Cuba, and China — routinely ignore the human rights treaties that they’ve signed. Others, like England and Ireland, enforce them selectively.
Hate speech bills — usually aimed at making the homosexual agenda immune to public criticism — come up in the U.S. Congress every year.
According to Leland, the U.S. government has signed on to most of the human rights treaties, including the ICCPR. What concerns us is that “domestic law does not trump international law,” as Leland put it. Have we subordinated our Constitution and Bill of Rights to international treaty? These treaties, as applied in Europe, have been used to support homosexual militancy and persecute its opponents — including, now, a preacher in his pulpit.
California last year enacted a hate speech law very similar to the one Sweden is using against Ake Green. The Pennsylvania law used against the “Philadelphia 11” has not yet been repealed.
What with international treaties, state laws, and proposed federal laws, for how much longer will America be without a case like Ake Green’s?
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