Bible site “spreads hate against gays”

The owner of a Christian website is facing prosecution for inciting hatred against homosexuals. The site, Bibeltemplet, contains a section called ‘Sodomania’. Prosecutors in Gothenburg say that the site contains articles and comments that threaten gay people.

The website’s owner, Leif Liljeström, from Stenungsund near Gothenburg, is being prosecuted under the law on agitation against minority groups. This was extended in 2003 to cover threats or insults to homosexuals as a group. The law has proven controversial, pitting gay rights groups against Christians and others who say that freedom of speech is threatened.

Bibeltemplet – which means ‘the Bible temple’ – describes itself as a site with “information and conversations on the Bible, society and so-called homosexuality.”

The passages on the site to have attracted the attention of Gothenburg prosecutor Per-Olof Hermansson include contributions by guests as well as articles by the administrator. Remarks left by visitors to the site include: “sinners are responsible for themselves. The death penalty for sodomites makes this responsibility clear.”

This posting, dated 27th January 2004, was still on the site at the time of writing. Swedish law requires that website administrators check comment boards, and remove illegal postings.

News of the prosecution comes as pastor Åke Green continues his appeal against conviction on similar charges, after he made an anti-gay sermon in his church on the island of Öland in 2003.

Liljeström was first questioned by police in June 2004, on the day after Åke Green was convicted. He claims on the site that police raided his house at dawn, taking computers, discs and papers, and held him at the police station for questioning.

Liljeström’s lawyer claims that the law infringes his client’s right to freedom of speech. And in a comment on the site, Liljeström himself claims that he has been badly treated by the authorities. “One wonders what is happening to Sweden – why aren’t more Christians being dragged in front of the courts, if it is now forbidden to tell the truth about sodomy,” he asks.

Hermansson says that he will wait for the result of Åke Green’s appeal before proceeding with the case. But, he told Dagens Nyheter, Leif Liljeström could face a prison sentence if convicted.

For his part, Liljeström says that he realises that the site might be breaking the law, but insists that he doesn’t intend to change its content: “I don’t intend to shut down the site – I will stand up for my faith.”

Whether or not the long arm of the law reaches far enought to convict Liljeström, it seems that the even longer arm of Lycos may have got there first. The company’s Tripod web-hosting subsidiary appeared on Tuesday to have removed pages from the site, saying that they violated its terms and conditions.

Sources: Degens Nyheter, Aftonbladet, Sydsvenska Dagbladet