STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) – A Pentecostal pastor who denounced homosexuality as a “cancerous tumor ‘ in a sermon said Tuesday he would stop preaching against gays after Sweden’s highest court acquitted him of hate speech.
The Supreme Court in Stockholm said Ake Green’s anti-gay sermon two years ago was protected by the freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights. The verdict ended a two-year legal battle that drew widespread attention in Sweden and abroad, pitting freedom of speech against the protection of minorities.
“This is great for freedom of religion and speech,” Green, 64, told The Associated Press by telephone from his home on the island of Oland, off Sweden’s southeastern coast. “It feels great that we get to keep that.”
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Even so, Green said he would not deliver any more sermons about homosexuals.
“I don’t need to,” he said. “I have said so clearly where I stand on the issue.”
The case stemmed from a 2003 sermon in which Green told his congregation that homosexuality was “a deep cancerous tumor on all of society,” and he warned that Sweden risked a natural disaster because of leniency toward gays.
He also said gays were more likely than others to rape children and animals.
Prosecutors said they respected the Supreme Court’s ruling and that it highlighted how national courts must consider European conventions in their decisions.
Critics warned the decision would open the door for verbal attacks against gays and other minorities.
“If you can say that homosexuals are a cancerous tumor, then what can you not say?” Aftonbladet, one of Sweden’s biggest newspapers, said in an editorial on its Web site.
Soren Andersson, chairman of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights, said the ruling would lead to “a growing religious agitation from right-wing extremist Christian groups who use the church as a forum to spread their message of hate.”
The Supreme Court ruling came as Sweden’s security police released a report saying hate crimes, especially against gays, are on the increase in the Scandinavian nation.
During the hearing earlier this month, Green said his sermon was meant to warn gays that their lifestyle will result in an “eternal divorce” from God.
“If two men sleep with each other, or if two women do so, it is abnormal, just like pedophilia,” Green said in his testimony.
A lower court last year sentenced Green to one month in prison, saying he had broken the law by inciting hatred against homosexuals. An appeals court overturned the ruling earlier this year, but Sweden’s chief prosecutor appealed the acquittal at the Supreme Court.
While Tuesday’s verdict secures Green’s freedom, he says his biggest victory may be that the media attention surrounding the case gave him a platform to spread his message.
“I wished for (attention), but I didn’t think it would reach all of Sweden, and even outside the country,” Green said. “It feels good to have been able to be such an influence.”
Associated Press reporter Karl Ritter contributed to this report.