Green’s sermon to become gay hate test case

Sweden's Supreme Court is to examine the Court of Appeal's decision to free contraversial Pentecostalist pastor Åke Green. Green had been originally convicted of inciting hatred against a minority after making offensive comments about homosexuals.

The Chief Public Prosecutor, Fredrik Wersäll, requested the legal test in order to be able to set legal boundaries between apparently contradictory legislation governing the freedom of speech and religion on the one hand and the protection of the interests of minority groups on the other.

Pentecostalist pastor, Åke Green, was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment last summer by Kalmar District Court for inciting hatred against a minority. He had made comments about homosexuals in a sermon in Borgholm during the summer of 2003.

According to Wersäll, Green’s sermon had no factual basis and was deeply offensive. Green had claimed that homosexuality was a sexual abomination which could be compared to a cancerous growth on the body of society. He supported his views with passages from the Bible.

The District Court’s conviction was then referred to the Göta Court of Appeal in Jönköping by both camps. The prosecution sought a harsher sentence and the defence sought acquittal. The court found in favour of the defence and acquitted Green in February.

Green’s lawyer, Percy Bratt, was not surprised that the Supreme Court intend to test the case as it represents an important matter of principle and could set a precedent.

“It’s the first case which attempts to set the boundaries between freedom of speech and incitement against an ethnic minority since the legal interpretation of ethnic minority was expanded to include homosexuals. The case also deals with the moral viewpoint of the Bible,” said Bratt.

Both Bratt and Green believe the Court of Appeal’s decision was well-balanced and should stand in the Supreme Court.

Both the District Court in Kalmar and the Court of Appeal in Jönköping were unambiguous in their opposing decisions. This has created a legal vacuum which the Supreme Court needs to sort out, according to Sven-Erik Alhem. Alhem is a senior prosecutor responsible for hate crimes at the new National Prosecution Authority.

“When different laws contradict one another, it’s important to know where the boundary goes. There’s an obvious need for a landmark decision on this issue from the Supreme Court,” said Alhem.

It’s unlikely that the case will be heard before the summer.

Sources:Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen