Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Swedish Minister Wins Free Speech Case

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.

Comments

  1. #1 CPT_Doom
    November 30, 2005

    I am happy about this ruling, because it allows me the freedom to state that “ministers” like Green are the real cancer on our collective society.

    Like a lot of people, I don’t get the ADF’s contention that Green was speaking “Bible-based messages” – the Bible does not say gays and lesbians are a “cancer” on society; it does not state that we are more likely to rape children and practice beastiality – both demonstrably false statements (although it has a LOT to say about false prophets and preachers). Those slanders are the work of Mr. Green’s bigoted mind.

    So Mr. Green has won the right to be a liar – to lie about both the Bible and gays and lesbians. Which begs the question – why exactly does a self-proclaimed Christian organization like ADF salute a liar.

  2. #2 Soren Kongstad
    November 30, 2005

    What irks me about the decision is that the reason seems to freedom of religion, and not freedom of speech.

    As I see this means that an atheist saying the same things would still be censored. While I embrace religious freedeom, I do not acknowledge that having a religion should give you a “get out of jail free card”.

    Everyone should be equal for the law!

    /Soren

  3. #3 snaxalotl
    November 30, 2005

    for a thoughtful and reasoned response: http://www.godhatessweden.com/index.html

  4. #4 raj
    December 1, 2005

    It should be evident that the godhatessweden.com web site is another of the web sites posted by the godhatesfags.com web sites from the idiot Fred Phelps clan.

  5. #5 raj
    December 1, 2005

    From the post:

    Freedom of speech means freedom from government coercion to punish such speech; it does not mean freedom from the judgements of others…

    I largely agree with you, but I have a slightly different take on this (as usual). It is likely that Ake Green would have been exercising his “freedom of speech” from a church, which likely would have been tax exempt. It is unlikely that I would have been able to engage in my “freedom of speech” in a tax-exempt enviornment.

    I suppose that one might respond that one could set up a soapbox in the public square, but, if everybody did that, it may quite well result in a cacophony.

    If they were to tax the churches as they do other properties, I would have no objection.

  6. #6 Krizz
    December 1, 2005

    Justice Holmes stated that the freedom of speech could not be relied upon by someone falsely crying “fire” in a crowded theater, and I believe that there have to be certain limits to the freedom of speech.

    The problem in this case is that Åke Green overstepped those limits, a view I seem to share with the Supreme Court of Sweden, but gets of the hook because he said the things he said as a minister and in a sermon. He used his faith and position to protect him in expressing his views. Thus, I agree that this is more a question of freedom of religion than of speech.

    Had he used less explicit language, kept to citing the Bible without making totally unsubstantiated remarks about Aids etc., I would in no way find this a problem.

    For my further comments, please, check this blog post.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    December 1, 2005

    I think the case involves both freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but freedom of speech is clearly the most important of the two. Even if you take away freedom of religion as a consideration – if his comments had no religious content at all – he still has the unalienable right to give his opinion, no matter how offensive that opinion is to me or you or anyone else.

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