Sweden's Hate Speech Law
by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
August 4, 2004
Europe people are starting to be jailed for saying what they think."
Those words were spoken by Vladimir Palko, the Slovak Interior Minister,
in a strongly worded protest to the Swedish ambassador to Slovakia.
The minister's comments represented outrage over the jailing of
a Christian pastor for preaching against homosexuality. The arrest
of this pastor in Sweden is only a foretaste of what is to come,
if homosexual advocates and their ideology gain traction in the
United States and other nations.
Ake Green, pastor of a Pentecostal congregation
in Kalmar, Sweden, was sentenced to one month in prison on a charge
of inciting hatred against homosexuals. Pastor Green was prosecuted
for his sermon in a January hearing, where he was found guilty of
"hate speech against homosexuals" for a sermon preached
According to press reports, Pastor Green condemned
homosexuality as "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumor in the
body of society." His comments were delivered as part of a
sermon, drawn from biblical texts, dealing with the sin of homosexuality.
In Sweden, biblical preaching is now a crime.
The prosecution of a Christian pastor for the crime
of preaching a biblical sermon sets a new low for the culture of
political correctness. Evangelical Christians--and all those who
cherish civil liberties--should observe this case with great interest
and concern. Those who reject biblical truth are now set on silencing
Christian pulpits--all in the name of tolerance, acceptance, and
The logic of this prosecution is driven by the ardent
determination of homosexual activists to make all criticism of homosexuality
illegal. The logic of many hate crimes statutes plays right into
this ideological strategy. By silencing all opposition, advocates
for the normalization of homosexuality have the public square entirely
to themselves, with defenders of biblical sexuality and the traditional
family left without a voice and risking prosecution for any language
or argument deemed offensive by the guardians of political correctness.
In response to the protest by the Slovakian Interior
Minister, Cecilia Julin, the Swedish ambassador to Slovakia, explained:
"Swedish law states that public addresses cannot be used to
instigate hatred towards a certain group." So much for free
speech and religious liberty.
Sweden passed its hate speech statute in 2002, explicitly
including "church sermons" as subject to the law's restrictions.
As the Riksdag, Sweden's parliament, debated the legislation, the
nation's chancellor of justice released a public note stating that
a church sermon characterizing homosexual behaviors as sinful "might"
be considered a criminal offense. That "might" must now
be replaced with "will," proved by Pastor Green's conviction
and jail term.
Swedish homosexual activists pledged to monitor
church sermons for content in order to report any offensive preaching
to the authorities. Soren Andersson, president of the Swedish Federation
for Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Rights told Christianity Today
that his group would "report hate speech regardless of where
it occurs." He now argues that religious liberty must not be
used as a rationale for offending homosexuals.
The Swedish church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning reported
that the prosecutor in this case, Kjell Yngvesson, justified the
arrest and prosecution of Pastor Green on these grounds: "One
may have whatever religion one wishes, but this is an attack on
all fronts against homosexuals. Collecting Bible citations on this
topic as he does makes this hate speech."
This is one of the most shocking and revealing statements
uttered by any legal official in recent times. This prosecutor has
the audacity to argue that one may hold to "whatever religion
one wishes," so long as one does not preach from the Bible
and address the issue of homosexuality from a biblical perspective.
The simple practice of reading biblical texts teaching the sinfulness
of homosexuality is now against the law in Sweden.
What can explain this arrogance? Northern Europe
has become one of the most secularized regions of the globe, with
the Scandinavian nations leading the trend towards the utter abandonment
and eradication of the Christian faith from modern society. Surveys
and polls consistently report an alarmingly low percentage of Scandinavian
citizens who hold to any religious faith at all, much less biblical
Christianity. Sweden's rejection of Christian morality and biblical
teachings on sexuality is now obvious for all to see. Marriage is
fast disappearing in the nation, as children are routinely born
out of wedlock, couples commonly cohabitate, and homosexuality has
This is the inevitable consequence of Europe's loss
of faith. When vital Christianity disappears, commitment to biblical
morality quickly evaporates. The Bible then becomes a text that
must be silenced and biblical preaching becomes a crime. This massive
reversal of moral logic defies the imagination, even as this prosecution
of a Christian pastor raises the specter of a new wave of persecution
The recent expansion of hate crimes laws in Canada,
intended to outlaw all criticism of homosexuality, is convincing
proof that these trends are not limited to Europe. The logic of
restrictions on free speech is clear. The issue of homosexuality
has also become a test case for American civil liberties. Where
homosexual behavior was once characterized as sodomy and thus criminalized,
some now openly call for the criminalizing of all "hate speech"
addressed to homosexuals. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed
a hate crimes provision attached to a defense appropriation bill.
Sponsored by senators Ted Kennedy [D-MA] and Gordon Smith [R-OR],
the law would have levied fines against anyone found to have committed
a crime that is "motivated by prejudice based on the race,
color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or
disability of the victim." The provision passed the Senate,
but died in the conference process with the House of Representatives.
Nevertheless, the fact that the bill passed in the Senate sends
the nation an urgent warning, and the logical jump from "hate
crimes" legislation to codes against "hate speech"
is small indeed.
Where this leads, of course, is to the eradication
of all criticism of homosexuality itself. In part, the logic of
hate crimes legislation is driven by the therapeutic culture, which
translates every important issue into a matter of emotional response.
Accordingly, assertions that homosexuality is sinful are now criticized
as harmful to the emotional health and comfort of those engaged
in the homosexual lifestyle.
Thus, in the name of sensitivity, tolerance, and
political correctness, such offensive speech must be eliminated,
the pulpit must be silenced, and faithful pastors are now fair targets
for condemnation and, eventually, for criminal prosecution. Pastors
in Sweden are now on notice--if you preach what the Bible teaches
about homosexuality, you will go to jail. The watching world and
the praying church must bear witness to this violation of conscience.
We are now witnesses to the criminalizing of Christianity.