Swedish Pastor Accused of Hate Crimes Acquitted

Christian groups were grateful that a Pentecostal pastor in Sweden was acquitted of hate speech charges stemming from 2003 comments he made for criticizing homosexuality.

Pastor Ake Green, who had denounced homosexuality as a "cancerous tumor" in comments from the pulpit and had been scheduled to serve for one month in prison, was acquitted by the Supreme Court in Stockholm under protection of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Pastor Green was preaching straight from the Bible on the moral degradation of homosexual behavior,” said Robert Knight, Director of the Culture and Family Institute for Concerned Women for America. Knight noted that Green was warning his congregation against "what God clearly calls sin" and invited others to repent like any other sinners.

At the center of the controversy were Hate Crime laws passed by Swedish lawmakers in 2003. In the summer of the year, Green was arrested at his church and charged with “hate speech against homosexuals.” Prosecutors had sought to increase the sentence to six months in jail, even as the case began drawing attention from all over the world.

The acquittal was called a victory for human rights and religious freedom by James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family.

“Pastors across that country can now exercise their human rights, without fear of going to prison for transgressing the hate-crimes law used to prosecute Pastor Green,” he said

For Green’s part, the Pentecostal pastor said he would no longer preach on the subject of homosexuals, since he had already made his stance abundantly clear.

"I don't need to," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I have said so clearly where I stand on the issue."

Jan LaRue, chief counsel for CWA said it was “troubling” that an international treaty had been required to liberate Green.

“This abominable prosecution should have been prohibited by Sweden's highest law,” said LaRue. “It's very troubling that recourse depended on an appeal to a treaty.”

According to Knight, Green’s case should “wake up” Americans to the dangers of hate-crime legislation. He said such laws “often lead to suppression of Christians and others who hold to traditional morality.”