Translation of the Swedish Decision on Anti-Homosexuality Speech

(in the Ake Green case): The Alliance Defense Fund has produced it — many thanks to them, and to Roger Alford (Opinio Juris) who pointed me to it.

Ken Alfano (mail):
"The question of whether the belief on which he based his statements is legitimate or not is not to be taken into account. . ."

This seems to me the crux of the matter. How dangerous a notion it would be to have the state deciding what does or does not constitute a "legitimate" religious conviction. After all, many value systems vehemently oppose each other and would (inappropriately) jump at any chance to classify it in such a way as to invalidate it.
12.13.2005 10:00pm
AppSocREs (mail):
Thank God for our Common Law and James Madison!
12.13.2005 10:15pm
Legalizing partnership between men and men and woman and woman, this will simply create disasters. Without parallel. We are already seeing the consequences of this. We see it through the spread of AIDS. . . .

And being faithful in a homosexual relationship is in no way a better relationship than changing partners every day.
Did the preacher even think about what he was saying?

I agree that he shouldn't be prosecuted for this--he should be ridiculed. The same goes for his supporters.

This case is a win-win. Free speech scored a victory and the case exposed the irrational raw bigotry that drives the anti-gay movement.
12.14.2005 5:17am
Phil (mail):
Public Defender
I think that this decision also exposed the fact that there exists at least one Swedish prosecutor who views freedom of speech with contempt. (My opinion of prosecutors was already low enough that this case leaves it unchanged.) The fact that it takes the court 16 pages to toss the prosecution places Sweden on my list of places NOT to live, or maybe even visit. (Suppose I claimed that USC fans were intrinsically disordered.)
On a more serious note: does anyone know the extent to which the Swedish approach is common within Europe? I have spent a lot of time here, but this is the first such case of which I have heard.
12.14.2005 9:38am
Dale Gribble (mail) (www):
So did the Swedish Court toss the conviction just because it thought the rest of the European Union would have tossed it as being"disproportionate/" The Swedish Court appears to leave the door open for prosecuting sermons disapproving of homosexuals.
12.14.2005 10:37am
Mr Diablo:
It really is hard to tell what the Swedish Court is doing here. Obviously private speech that disparages homosexuals must be tolerated; and when it is as absurd as what this preacher said, it truly benefits the gays in exposing that the anti-gay in Sweden and in the United States are just ranting bigots.

By all means, let them speak!

And who cares if one Swedish prosecutor thinks that this kind of speech should be outlawed. Let's not be so brazenly stupid as to judge another country based on the actions of one prosecutor (for conservatives: think of Ronny Earle, for liberals: think of Mike Cox in Michigan who is about to take partisan prosecutions for campaign contributions to a new low).
12.14.2005 11:45am
RHD (mail):
It's remarkable how little protection exists in Europe for freedom of speech, and in contrast how firmly the European legal establishment has embraced politically correct "speech codes." This decision is especially interesting given the tendency by some European bien penseurs to dismiss the US as the home of fascistic efforts to suppress dissident speech.

Putting aside the deeply ironic aspects of European jurisprudence on this point, the decision is illuminating for the extent to which the EU is now a religion-free zone, at least for its ostensibly majoritarian sects. In any jurisdiction where religion was a vibrant part of a society's life, one would not expect a prosecutor even to contemplate a criminal prosecution against ministers for delivering a sermon expressing orthodox expressions of traditional Christian teaching. The recent "instruction" from the Vatican on qualifications for the Catholic priesthood could probably be condemned as criminal under the same standard. That this prosecution was pressed to a ruling by the Swedish Supreme Court, and that it was ultimately decided by application of some kind of a balancing test, speaks volumes about the truly marginal role of religion in European societies. Except, of course, if the religion in question is Islam ....
12.14.2005 3:05pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Of course people should be able to criticize homosexuals, and it is the genius of our First Amendment that we don't let the government get in the business of determining what ideas are too "dangerous" for the public to hear. This is one area where we are clearly right and Europe is wrong.

I do get the feeling, though, that at least some conservatives want to wrap this up in the notion of "sincere religious objection to homosexuals". Of course, one can believe that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that belief is not bigoted. But the vast majority of anti-homosexual speech is bigoted. Indeed, for many people, including many deeply religious people, it seems to be an obsession. I once drove through rural North Carolina and heard preacher after preacher on the radio denouncing gays and lesbians (and describing male homosexual conduct in quite graphic terms). For many folks, it is as if it's the only thing in the Bible, and there's a lot more talk about hating the sin than there is about loving the sinner.

And we must remember, opponents of interracial marriage and interracial dating once hid behind religious justifications too. (Remember Bob Jones University v. United States?)

So I'm quite fine with condemning decisions that prohibit people from expressing anti-gay prejudice. But let's call this what it is-- hate speech.
12.14.2005 3:20pm
Dilan, you said "For many folks, it is as if it's the only thing in the Bible, and there's a lot more talk about hating the sin than there is about loving the sinner."

Of all religiously-tinged speech you've heard in your life-time, about what percentage of it has be with reference to homosexuality? I'll guess it's way below 1%. Granted, this isn't proof that some Christians don't harp on homosexuality or treat it as if its the only thing in the Bible. But it is a pretty clear indication that an overwhelming majority of Christians, even conservative ones, while perhaps having strong opinions on the matter and occasionally voicing them, have better things to talk about 99% of the time. It may also be an indication that you have selective hearing.
12.14.2005 3:43pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

As a percentage of ALL religiously-tinged speech? I don't know. Probably a very small amount. But that includes speech by Buddhists, Muslims, liberal Christians, Pagans, religious philosophers, politicians, etc.

Of speech by devout conservative Christians in public fora? I'd say that I've heard far more about homosexuality than I have heard about taking care of the poor, or not praying in public, or rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, or all sorts of other things that have rather more prominence in Scripture than the Levitical prohibition against some forms of same-gender sexual acitivity.
12.14.2005 4:13pm
RHD (mail):
Dilan: "Of speech by devout conservative Christians in public fora? I'd say that I've heard far more about homosexuality than I have heard about taking care of the poor, or not praying in public, or rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, or all sorts of other things that have rather more prominence in Scripture than the Levitical prohibition against some forms of same-gender sexual acitivity."

I think your observation may have more to do with the usual media filter at work -- homophobic stuff is what gets highlighted by the press. I attend a Catholic parish in Brooklyn, and the only time the subject of homosexuality comes up is in sermons stressing the Christian imperative of "love thy neighbor." You'll never hear any gay bashing, "AIDS is God's punishment ...", or similar stuff -- all of which is contrary to orthodox Catholic teaching in any event. The Vatican "instruction" that got some play a few weeks ago was distorted beyond recognition in the press.

So, if your information about "devout conservative Christians" comes from the press, rather than personal participation in a Christian church (of whatever flavor), you need to take into account the reality that this is not a subject likely to get sympathetic treatment from a fervently secular press. I am not familiar with how the deeply fundamentalist churches discuss these issues. Perhaps that is what you have in mind. Bear in mind, however, that such sects are not representative of the Catholic community, or for much of the Protestant community as well.
12.14.2005 4:49pm

ÅG has wilfully spread these statements in his sermon before the congregation, conscious that they would be perceived as offensive. In the meaning of Chapter 16, Section 8 of the Penal Code, which has been expressed in the motives, the statements must therefore be regarded as having expressed contempt for homosexuals as a group.

This passage is absolutely chilling for people who believe in freedom. The leap from speech about a group which society deems "impolite" or "offensive" to speech which directly insults that group is utterly despotic.

This case makes clear that gay rights movement carries within it the seeds of tyranny. Ake Green was expressing his religious convictions before his congregation. He posed no threat to anyone. Eternal vigilence is the price of liberty.
12.14.2005 5:09pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

My views come from listening to conservative Christians themselves-- not how they are portrayed in the media. I.e., watching preachers on TV, listening to them on the radio, seeing and hearing Christian conservatives on talk shows, etc.

With respect to Catholics, you are of course correct that many Catholic leaders don't spend much time talking about homosexuality-- the obsession with gays is primarily a conservative Protestant phenomenon. At the same time, it is notable that as soon as the sex abuse scandal became a media firestorm, the Church (whose hierarchy was clearly the actual responsible party for the scandal) reacted by blaming gay priests and eventually moving towards expelling them from their positions. So even the Catholic Church is susceptible to this.
12.14.2005 6:18pm