In a victory for free speech, a Swedish minister who was charged and convicted under that nation’s “hate speech” laws has had that conviction overturned by the Supreme Court of Sweden in a unanimous ruling. The Ake Green case is similar in some ways to the Stephen Boissoin case in Canada, but in Green’s case he was actually convicted in a criminal trial for things he said during a sermon at his Pentecostal church and was sent to prison:
The Swedish Supreme Court has acquitted a pentecostal minister of charges he violated the nation’s hate-speech laws when he labeled homosexuality a “deep cancer tumor” on society during a sermon two years ago.
The court ruled Ake Green was free to espouse his religious views even if they were deemed offensive by some, though prosecutors said the high court’s decision will not lead to acceptance of “gay bashing.”
They noted the court recognized Green’s comments were made during a religious sermon and did not incite others to take harmful actions against homosexuals.
While this is an unequivocal victory for liberty, leave it to the demagogues at the Alliance Defense Fund to go way over the top with their rhetoric in response to this ruling:
The U.S.-based Alliance Defense Fund, which filed friends-of-the-court briefs in support of Green, called the high court’s ruling “a huge victory for religious liberty everywhere.”
Fair enough so far, I agree…
“As David slew Goliath, Ake Green slew the radical homosexual agenda in this case,” said Benjamin Bull, ADF’s chief counsel. “We can only hope this will deter other attempts to censor Christian ministers from delivering Bible-based messages against harmful homosexual conduct. Ake Green is a hero, and we are grateful for his stand and his perseverance.”
And off the deep end they go. No, no, no. This has nothing to do with the “homosexual agenda”. I have no doubt that most homosexuals would recognize and support the right of ministers, or anyone else, to give their opinions about homosexuality even if those opinions offend them (and those who don’t are unwittingly destroying their own argument for being treated equally under the law). And Green is not a hero. The fact that he was the victim of an oppressive act by the government doesn’t make him a hero, nor does it excuse him from the moral judgement that he is advocating bigotry, regardless of his justification for it.
Freedom of speech means freedom from government coercion to punish such speech; it does not mean freedom from the judgements of others (in the same way that liberty means you have the right to couple with whatever consenting adult you wish, but it doesn’t mean everyone else has to applaud that coupling or stay silent about it). Rational, freedom loving people will applaud the Swedish court’s ruling while simultaneously condemning the bigotry and hatred found in the sermon at issue. The solution to offensive speech, as always, is not government coercion but the exercise of one’s own speech to condemn that which we find offensive and prove it wrong.