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Swedish anti-gay pastor acquitted

Swedish anti-gay pastor acquitted

BBC News
12/1/2005

Tested Sweden's tough hate crimes legislation Sweden's Supreme Court has acquitted a Pentecostal pastor accused of inciting hatred against homosexuals.

In a sermon two years ago, Pastor Ake Green told his congregation that homosexuality was a "deep cancer tumour" on society.

He was convicted in 2004 under Sweden's hate crimes law.

But on Tuesday the court upheld an appeals court verdict that Pastor Green's remarks did not constitute incitement to hatred.

In a 16-page ruling, the Supreme Court said his sermon was protected by freedom of speech and religion.

Mr Green was the first cleric convicted under Sweden's new hate crimes law, which was amended two years ago to include homosexuals.

Anti-gay sermon

He has shown little regret for his comments when addressing the media. He has also said his comments referred to a homosexual lifestyle, rather than individuals.

But after his acquittal, he said that everyone now knew what he thought about homosexuals and he would keep his mouth shut in future.

In the sermon, Mr Green told a congregation on the small south-eastern island of Oland that homosexuals were "a deep cancer tumour on all of society" and that gays were more likely than other people to rape children and animals.

He was sentenced to one month in prison in 2004, but was released on appeal.

Pastor Green told Swedish media he was relieved over the supreme court ruling and that he now would be free to preach the word of God.

His case has fuelled a heated debate in Sweden, a country where both freedom of speech and tolerance are highly prized virtues, the BBC's Lars Bevanger reports.

The case has also attracted widespread international attention.

Some religious groups have argued that 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 by right-wing extremists.

END

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