Swedish Pastor Sentenced for 'Hate Speech'
By Dale Hurd
September 10, 2004
A lot of people think of Sweden as a 'tolerant' nation. But lately it's starting to show intolerance towards Christianity. A pastor there has been sentenced to jail for preaching against homosexuality and other sexual sin.
This place is probably not where you'd expect to find a man like Ake Green.
In the little village of Borgholm, in southern Sweden, this quiet Swedish pastor of a small Pentecostal church decided to stand against what he says is his nation's 'embrace' of homosexuality.
But because of what he preached, Pastor Green has been sentenced to a month in jail under a 'hate speech' law.
Pastor Green said, "I was watching television, reading the newspaper, listening to high profile people - actors, singers - glorifying the homosexual lifestyle. And I was worried, and was concerned, and I felt a deep burden in my heart to speak on that topic."
Green prepared the sermon last year, on what the Bible says about homosexuality, with the intention that the townspeople of Borgholm come to hear him. But attendance was disappointing.
So Ake Green had his sermon published in the local newspaper. In it, he compared the sin of Sweden to the sin of Sodom.
He warned, "Our country is facing a disaster of great proportions! Of that we can be sure. God said the land would vomit out its inhabitants. Our country is facing a disaster."
But it was how he described sexual practices like homosexuality that brought the charge against him: Green told us, "What I said was that sexual abnormality was like a cancer of the society." In more precise English, a "cancerous tumor."
He ended his sermon speaking of God's grace and with respect for those living in sexual sin.
He said, "What these people need, who live under the slavery of sexual immorality, is an abundant grace. It exists. Therefore we will encourage those who live in this manner to look at the grace of Jesus Christ. We cannot condemn these people. Jesus never belittled anyone. He offered them grace."
But his ending didn't matter. The printed sermon was seen by local homosexuals and the district prosecutor, and Green was convicted in a district court and given a month in jail.
A sentence he has not yet served because he is appealing the conviction. Green's defense attorney is Percy Bratt, the Chairman of the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.
Bratt said, "The very basic question that is raised in this matter is: to what extent it is criminal to teach from the words in the Bible, so to say."
The hate speech law used to convict Green was first intended to protect Jews and other ethnic minorities from Nazi sympathizers. But in more recent times the law was amended to also protect 'sexual orientation.'
Bratt said, "The wordings of this provision are very general, so the area that shall be criminalized is up to the courts."
The district prosecutor in the case refused to speak with CBN News. But we were able to speak with Sweden's national gay and lesbian organization in Stockholm, the RFSL, which supports Green's conviction.
The RFSL spokesperson said, "Hatred and defamation is not to be accepted, just because it's based on religious beliefs or religious scriptures. You have some limits when it comes to the freedom of speech."
But the Ake Green case is becoming an embarrassment for a nation which prides itself on its tolerance. It may also be a catalyst.
Josef Östby is a noted Missionary and Pastor in Sweden's Pentecostal Movement. He said, "I felt it's like a prophetic message - for our time -in Sweden."
Östby also hopes God is using an unknown preacher from a small town to awaken a nation.
Östby said, "A kind person like Green, silent, is working in a small church. [Then he spoke up.] And today, the whole country is talking about it, and [even other] countries are touched by his simple message."
But support for Green among some Swedish evangelical leaders has been surprisingly lukewarm. Green blames them for acquiescing to the homosexual agenda. He said he draws his inspiration from the Old Testament prophets.
Green said, "We have read about Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and Amos. They were living in times of spiritual decline. I believe we are dealing with a spiritual dimension here. The Evangelical churches don't want a confrontation with what's going on in Swedish society, and that makes them silent."
Green's attorney says the case will now go to an appeals court, and if necessary, to Sweden's Supreme Court, and even to the European Court, if necessary. He says the district judge misapplied the law.
Bratt said, "The court must, when applying this provision, make a balancing act between the right of homosexuals and the right of the freedom of religion and the right of the freedom of expression. And we say that the court has not made a proper such balancing."
But other nations are moving in the same direction or already have similar laws, including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Östby calls Green's conviction a tragedy for democracy in Sweden. He said, "We cannot, in Sweden, be known for things like putting a pastor in jail for a sermon! This is impossible!"
But the spokesman for Sweden's national gay and lesbian organization said one month in jail is not long enough for Green. It hopes a higher court will impose a longer sentence.
The RFSL spokesperson said, "The district attorney has said 6 to 8 months would be more appropriate when it comes to this crime and we cannot do anything else but to agree with that."
Ake Green says he's not afraid to go to jail. Green added, "I am not a criminal, I don't feel like a criminal, but this new law makes us preachers 'as criminals' if we speak up."
Some say Pastor Green has awakened Swedish evangelicals on the issue of homosexuality. He's certainly created an uncomfortable dividing line for church leaders, whether to speak boldly what the Bible says about homosexuality, or not.
An otherwise overlooked pastor has done something to grab the attention of a nation. Ake Green says he was "only obeying God."
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