court on Tuesday acquitted a Pentecostal pastor accused
of hate speech for having denounced homosexuality as a
"cancerous tumor" in a sermon. Ake Green's contentious
sermon in 2003 was protected by freedom of speech and
religion under the European Convention on Human
Rights, the Swedish supreme court said in a 16-page ruling.
Green, 64, became the first clergyman convicted
under Sweden's hate-crimes legislation when a lower
court found him guilty of inciting hatred against
gays. An appeals court overturned the ruling earlier this
year, but Sweden's chief prosecutor appealed the acquittal
to the supreme court.
Green said the supreme court ruling was a relief
for him and for other preachers. "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," he
told Swedish public radio.
In 2003, Green told his congregation 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
are more likely than others to rape children and animals.
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. The
trial ended earlier this month, but the verdict was not
issued until Tuesday.
"We are obliged to consider the European
Convention on Human Rights and the way in which the
convention has been applied by the European Court of
Justice," supreme court justice Johan Munck said. "We
believe that it is probable that a conviction against Pastor
Green would not hold up in the European Court of Justice."
The case attracted widespread international
attention, with some religious groups saying a
conviction would be a threat to freedom of religion
and speech. Others said an acquittal would open the door to
fiercer attacks against Jews, Muslims, and gays. (AP)