Swedish pastor
defends antigay sermon in nation's highest court

A Pentecostal
pastor charged with hate speech for denouncing
homosexuality as a "cancerous tumor" defended his views in
Sweden's highest court Wednesday, saying gay sex is an
abnormality on a par with pedophilia.
Ake Green, 64, delivered a fiery antigay sermon
two years ago that triggered a legal battle testing
the limits of Sweden's freedom of speech. Green told
the supreme court that his sermon was meant to warn
gays that their lifestyle will result in an "eternal
divorce" from God. "If two men sleep with each other,
or if two women do so, it is abnormal, just like
pedophilia," Green said in his testimony.
Audio broadcasts from the much-awaited hearing
were carried live on nationwide TV, which is unusual
in Sweden. The hearing was expected to last one day,
but a ruling could take several weeks.
Green became the first clergyman convicted under
Sweden's hate-crimes legislation, which was modified
in 2003 to include attacks against gays. An appeals
court overturned the ruling earlier this year, but Sweden's
chief prosecutor appealed the acquittal to the supreme court.
The case has attracted widespread international
attention, with some religious groups saying a
conviction would be a threat to freedom of religion
and speech. Others say an acquittal would open the door to
fiercer attacks against Jews, Muslims, and gays by
right-wing extremists.

In 2003, Green
told his congregation on the small island of Oland that
homosexuality is "a deep cancerous tumor on all of society"
and warned that Sweden risked a natural disaster
because of leniency toward gays. He also said gays
were more likely than others to rape children and animals.
Green on Wednesday testified that the "tumor"
reference was directed toward the gay lifestyle, not
the individuals who practice it.
Prosecutor Stefan Johansson urged the court to
send Green to jail for his sermon. He challenged
Green's views that the gay lifestyle is the root of
HIV/AIDS and could bring natural disasters to a country.
"Don't you think that is deeply offensive to
homosexuals?" Johansson asked.
A defiant Green answered he understood that gays
could be insulted by his sermon but insisted the
purpose was to encourage gays to change their
"ungodly" behavior. "I want to warn young people about the
consequences," he said. "When you tell the truth to a
person, it can hurt."
Protesters and supporters of Green gathered
outside the courthouse. "We want to defend freedom of
religion," said Lewi Freijd, a 16-year-old high school
student holding a large orange banner with the same
message. "If he is convicted, then you will not be allowed
to preach what is in the Bible."
Robert Karlsson Svard, holding a sign reading "I
am not a cancerous tumor," told newspaper Dagens
he hoped Green would be sent to jail. "I
don't want to be cured or surgically removed," he was
quoted as saying. (AP)

Tags: World, World

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