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« Gay Mystics Take the Direct Route to God | Main | Re-Reading Virtually Normal »

July 16, 2004

Comments

John Ballew

Yeah, this sort of activism assumes the way to create a more just society is to stomp on those who disagree with us. That's goofy and anti-liberal. It also plays into the fears of those who oppose change and believe we want to cram something down their throats.

Joe Perez

I forwarded my blog post to the RFSL and mentioned that I was working on a column on the topic.

Response from Robert Karlsson Svärd
head of information

"Dear Joe,

I'm not as fluent in English as I want to and I hope you can understand this quite complex text:

In Sweden there is a law that prohibits printed or spoken defamation and agitation against groups based on religion, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation (hetero, bi, homo). This law gives the equvivalent of a District Attornety the means to charge, for example, neo-nazis who holds a speech or prints or spreads documents with anti-semitic content. This law is one of the four laws of the Swedish constitution (in all: Instrument of Government, Act of Freedom of Speech, Act of Freedom of Religion and Succesional order of the Royal family). Defamation and agitation - religious or other - is banned. Hatred and threats versus a group based on the "group's" sexual orientation is by this law banned and punishable with a fine and/or up to two years of prison.

Ake Green was actively testing this law. He invited local media to come to his sermon. He knew that he was breaking the law - this is stated in several quotations from himself. He, and an active minor part of the christian movement in Sweden, wants to have an exception from the law - they want to be able to be exckluded from it when preaching. The government and the Swedish parlament does not agree. They clearly state that the freedom from defamation/agitation is more worth than the right to express such defamation/agitation. The right to quote (and discuss) holy writings, such as the Bible or the Koran, is still there and can not be deemed to be defamation/agitation. Ake Green did, however, include several things in his sermon that could neither be deemed as a quotation or a discussion about a quotation from the Bible. The quote from Soren Andersson states that he agrees with the Swedish law. Defamation or agitation is no more okay if it is expressed in a sermon than if it was express during a nea-nazi rally. One may agree or not with this, but it is the law in Sweden.

Several people in Sweden were worried that the Bible itself would become criminal with the inclusion of sexual orientation in the ban of defamation/agitation in the Act of Freedom of Speech. If that would be the case then the Bible would be criminal as is due to the defamation/agitation versus groups based on ethnicity. It is *not* criminal to print a Bible or to read it in Sweden. The law now prohibits defamation and agitation against GLB-groups and that is good. To discuss homo/bisexuality is quite different than to agitate against people who are glb. The law is not a problem for the GLBT-movement in Sweden - quite to the contrary: the law states that human rights are GLB-rights.

Do write me back - we are interested in the development in this matter."

My reply:

"Thanks for your reply. I will continue my research on this topic and the information that you presented prior to the publciation of my column. I'll also post your reply to my blog for the benefit of its readership. I was aware that the Andersson was merely agreeing with the law in Sweden, and so it would be unfair to single him or RFSL out for special rebuke in this regard. I will be sure to make clear when my column is published that my objection is primarily with Swedish law (which I regard as truly a nightmare) and only secondarily with the GLBT/queer activists who suports the use of extreme anti-defamation laws."

Jari Koskisuu

Mr. Perez

I also have to apologize my English, but I try to be as brief as possible.

I would be rather careful when elevating pastor Green to martyrdom. I think that you should get your facts straight and then decide whether or not he should be celebrated as a warrior of free speech or biblical truth.

As Robert Karlsson stated before pastor Green invited media to be prsent with the purpose of breaking the law. According to Swedish law he would not have committed a crime had he stayed within the wording of the scripture. He did not. He stated among other things that "homosexuals are the cancerous tumor within the body of the society", that "homosexual men prefer sex with dogs and other animals" and consequently referred to gay people having "animal nature". I do notknow which version of the Bible you use but mine does not have abovementioned "facts" in scripture.

What pastor Green did was not only blatant disregard of existing law but he also claimed that all that he said was biblical truth. You know and I know that it is not the case.

To make comaprison easier: let's imagine that he had preached against jews with same kind of rhetoric: that jews anre "cancerous tumor", they "prefer sex with animals" or are "animals by nature" and then claimed to have these claims to have basis on scripture.

Am I to understand that you promote use of the Bible this way? That it is OK to defame groups of people with lies and then use Bible as a reference? Is this your understanding of the nature of the biblical truth.

In recent year there has been an increase of violent crimes against gays. The perpetrators have been neo-nazis. Their propaganda uses precisely the same arguments, statements and false claims. You would propbably not endorse their claim to truth but you would endorse precisely same wording if it is expressed by a "christian"?

On the other hand, Ake Green knew that he was was going to break the law, boasted about it beforehand, invited the media and then told defaming lies about gays? What should the police and courts have done?

Free speech is important but as Karlsson stated above: so is also the rights of minorities to be safe from agitation, defamation, harrassment and violence.

The law of Sweden does not prohibit the freedom to preach the scripture but it prohibits defamation and lies regardless of the nature or background of the agitator.

Do you really think that mr. Green and his actions are worthy of appraisal or that he should be elevated to be a martyr of free speech.

BTW. I am from Finland that does not have that kind of statute. But I am with Sweden in this.

Joe Perez

Jari: Yes, I do believe Mr. Green is a victim of unfair persecution. I also think his views of Biblical truth are disgusting. I'm glad to live in a country where people are free to have disgusting thoughts and to speak them in the privacy of their own churches or organizations, free from the regulation by thought police. However, unless I learn that Mr. Green actually incited violent acts -- "Go out and kill a fag for Christ" that sort of thing -- his ugly, hateful views should be legal to express.

And, yes, I still think that if he had been a neo-Nazi and speaking of another group.
It seems that the story is more complicated than I originally surmised from the initial press report, in that the pastor knew he was disobeying law and performed an act of civil disobedience. However, the facts are unchanged: radical thought policing of discourse has no place in a liberal society, and anyone who advocates such extremist measures under the pretense of "tolerance" should be roundly taken to task for being anything but tolerant.

Jari Koskisuu

Dear Joe

If you would step down from your moral high horse for a second. In the state of human rights and freedoms is US I have two words for you: Patriot Act.

If you want to make a case against somebody: make it against Swedish people (who overwhelmingly supported this law) and Swedish parliament who also supported this with 4/5ths majority.

The judge in his ruling stated that had mr. Green quoted the Bible or his own interpretation of the Bible he would not have commited a crime. But stating that homosexuals prefer to have sex with animals, are mostly pedophiles or are the reason why AIDS came into existence constitute a violation of the law. None of these statements can not be said to found in the Bible therefore his rights of religious freedom or interpretation of sacred texts have not been violated.

In Scandinavia civil rights and freedoms also include a persons' rights to live without fear of intimidation, harassment, defamation or hatred in public square. The church is not considered "private" especially when (like in this case) the perpetrator beforehand announces to media of his intentions to break the law.

One way to understand Scandinavian thought in this matter is the concept of slander. Should someone state publicly that is goatfucking pedophile who is personally responsible for spreading of HIV, that would constutute a slander (even in American terms). Why should a same slander be less offensive if states that a group (i.e. gays) that I am a member of consists of goatfucking... etc?

The basic notion in Scandinavian understanding of human rights and liberties is that somebody's rights can not trample others' rights (for instance I cannot have two votes on a ballot).

Free speech means that you can and you have the right foir instance for religious expression, atatement that homosexuality is a sin, but you do not have right to defamate any group based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion.

You seem to think that incitement to crime happens only when somebody encourages direct violence. In the light of the rise of neo-nazism I would state that encourament to hate and entitlement to discrimination of monorities are likely to make people feel less safe, less respected and restricts their freedoms.

Personally I would not have prosecuted this publicity seeking little man. His purpose was to gain notoriety and remove the spotlight from the various scandals in Swedish Pentecostal Church to gays. But based on the swedish law, they had no alternative.

On a patriot note: I am proud to live in a country that elected former chairwoman of National Gay and Lesbian Association to President of the Republic and I am proud to live in neighborhood of the country where Deputy Prime Minister marches in Gay Pride Parade. I am proud of the basic civil rights that also include people like me.

I am bloody tired of misrepresentations or outright lies about Scandinavia that have been circulated around US concerning gays and gay marriages. I refer to constant claims made by several religious leaders in US that Gay Marriage destroyed staright marriage in Scandinavia or that Ake Green is a victim of Christian persecution. Both are lies. I hope that you would stop using our countries as weapons in your own debates. Or at least get your facts straight.


Joe Perez

We obviously have very different views of what constitutes an appropriate venture of the government into regulating speech. You want to use the power of the state to regulate the ability of individuals to "defame any group..." which basically means saying things that might hurt somebody's feelings. I think that's a chilling and deeply anti-liberal sentiment, and dangerous.

Jari Koskisuu

The basis of the legistlation is not (nor was it the basis of the ruling in this case)the feelings of persons or that somebody may be offended. The aim of the legistlation is to prevent and curtail speech that promotes hatred by expression of lies.

Like on case of antisemitism: should somebody sate that jews are the cancerous tumor in the body of society in public square it would be considered hate speech in essence. Not mainly because it offends jJews (or a singular person) but because it promotes hatred, discrimination or prejudice.

We in Europe who lived close by the horrors of fascism and stalinism do not take hate as breezily or nonchalantly as you seem to do.

Anyway: take your case to Swedish government and people. Even The Christian Democratic Party was ready to accept legistlation with wording restricted to ethnicity, religion and gender(with the exception of gays, of course).

I do not see any particular reason why Christians should get a free ride on this issue. Is hat not a reverse thought police? It is OK to spread antisemitism or hate towards gays as long as you state that you are Christian?

Once again I state that the law does not deny religious rights: it curtails the "right" to spread lies about minorities. It does not force pastor Green to accept homosexuality, or deny his convictions neither does it not deny his right to preach against gay rights. What it does is stated on judge's opinion: (translation from Swedish mine): Green stated that homosexuals as a group are guilty of crimes that are very serious in nature and strongly punishable by law without any evidence (pedophilia and spreading HIV intentionally).

BTW: MR Green did not get as much media attention to the actual sermon as he had hoped for, so he posted the text to several magazines. That is how it caught the attention of the prosecutor's office.

He also stated after the verdict that he had hoped for conviction and that all the fuzz has been "very exciting". He is going to complain about the verdict to Superior Court anyway.

Blaming gays (including me) to be pedophiles is not religious freedom. It is slander towards a minority. The swedes think that it should be an punishable offence. You do not.

On behalf of all the goatfucking pedophiles I salute your understanding of freedom. To me freedom means a right to live without being subjected to harassment, prejudice, defamation or prejudice. I warmly agree that mr. Green has the right to interpret he Bible any way he chooses, but he does not have the right to slander or spread lies and claim that they are based on scripture.

Mike A.

If Ake Green had said in the United States that a specific person -- say, Andrew Sullivan -- is a "cancerous tumor" who has sex with animals, then he could be found guilty of slander.

But if Ake Green described an entire section of society that way in the United States, he could not be found guilty of slander. The libel and slander laws in the United States essentially apply to specific, individual entities -- people, companies -- not to social groupings. There seems to be no protection for social groupings except in places where hate-crimes laws are in effect.

The disagreement on this page seems to relate to that difference in the laws.

What Ake Green said was false and he said it with malice. Should libel/slander laws apply only to individual entities, or should social groupings also be protected from malicious untruths?

Jari Koskisuu

It is not only about the existing laws. It is about the values behind the laws. I would like to point once again that right to "free speech" in Scandinavian point of view and values does not equal as a right to purposefully lie or slander.

I also have to point out that these laws have not prevented openly racist people to be elected to parliament nor their right to express their views on public platform nor has it curtailed the right to speak against gay marriage.

It only prevents people from making false generalisations, outright lies or expressing views that are likely to encourage violence or other forms of harassment.

On a spiritual note and to clarify some differences between our culture and yours: Stockholm Gay Pride opening speech was given by the Evangelic Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm, Caroline Krook. 80% of swedes belong to evangelig-lutheran church that ordains openly gay persons and is now in the process of creating a liturgy of blessing of same-sex unions.

Dwight

There's a lot to admire in the social systems and in the political and religious climate in Scandinavia. There's a lot the US could learn from these countries but on this one issue I'm going to have to go with Joe Perez.

It was noted that if the pastor had been ignored, that would have been the best resort. I agree. But the law is there which prevents this. Maybe the problem is with the law in that the best response to this guy could not be followed through.

Other examples of hate speech are brought forth..anti-semitism, racism, etc. But I have no more sympathy in banning hate speech towards these other groups then I would for gay and lesbians. Some have pointed to slander laws, but even these can be misused (as has often been the case in the UK, for instance) to stifle unpopular speech.

Examples are given of how certain expressions of thought are allowed within certain perameters so such restrictions on speech are ok. But the fact that it is only within the accepted limits set by the government is the very problem.

I think being part of the left in the US makes one particularily sensitive to these issues, because through much of our history, laws which restricted free speech have invariably targeted us. In the newest issue of The Nation, there's an excellent article on how Bush, Ashcroft and company have sought to restrict the free speech of those who opposed the war and his presidency.

And Joe is right to be concerned about what such actions do in the work for gay and lesbian equality in other countries, like the US. Anytime there are efforts to work for equality, say in marriage, actions like those taken by the Swedish gov't is brought forward to scare Americans so that they oppose such equality.

In the state of Montana, they have voter information guides where pro/con arguments presented on the various iniatives. There is a ban on gay marriage which some are trying to place in the state constitution. One of the claims of the proponents is that there is a movement which would coerce churches, Christians, etc. that can only be prevented from such bans.

So while the law may have support from all quarters in Sweden, it does make our work for glbt equality harder in countries like the US

Boris

Unfortunately we in Scandinavia do not feel obliged to shape our laws or culture based on the expectations of people in US, gay or not.

There are lots of misrepresentations and outright lies concerning these laws in Scandinavia. Some facts:

No church, congregation or other religious group are not forced to ordain gays, give blessings to same-sex unions or to not preach against them. Bible is not considered as hate speech. It curtails only knowingly spreading false testimonies, which by the way is the 8th commandment, so feel free to connect the dots: this is basically a very biblical law.

I am deeply sorry, that we have been unable to assist you in your fight by restraining us from protecting all minorities, including gays.

Jari Koskisuu

Unfortunately we in Scandinavia do not feel obliged to shape our laws or culture based on the expectations of people in US, gay or not.

There are lots of misrepresentations and outright lies concerning these laws in Scandinavia. Some facts:

No church, congregation or other religious group are not forced to ordain gays, give blessings to same-sex unions or to not preach against them. Bible is not considered as hate speech. It curtails only knowingly spreading false testimonies, which by the way is the 8th commandment, so feel free to connect the dots: this is basically a very biblical law.

I am deeply sorry, that we have been unable to assist you in your fight by restraining us from protecting all minorities, including gays.

Chris Kempling

I received this message, for homosexual people, on January 8, 2003 at 8:30 in the evening, while reading Brennan Manning's the Relentless Tenderness of Jesus:
'Hear the Word of the Lord, the Most High God. "I know what you do in secret. I did not make you for this purpose. But I do not condemn you, but will forgive you. Repent, turn from your ways, and I will heal you and give you rest from all of your burdens,' says the Lord God."
Let those who have ears to hear, listen.
Chris Kempling
Quesnel, BC
Canada

Boss

«"Fundamentalism represents an abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumor in the body of society,"» -> this is true and it's not a crime to say it.

Fundamentalism and Homossexuality can't be seen as simetrical, because they aren't. Fundamentalism is hate (against lgbt, black people, jews, etc etc etc). That Swedish law condemns hate, that ist, condemns fundamentalism. And that's good. Hate should always be condemned.

I'm sorry that in Portugal our laws against hate aren't really aplied.

(sorry for my bad english..)

Jimbo

The one month sentence in this case has been overturned at appeal

John Bellamy

All these Christians claiming to be Godly while also claiming to know what the Bible says and means and then use it to limit and damn others for simply being different. Didn't Jesus himself say 'Love thy neighbours as you love yourself.' and he most certainly didn't add... 'unless they are black, or gay, or poor, or an unmarried mother, or unemployed, or living in the mid west or Muslim .' - he said to love everyone as you would yourself. So I love reading these views on here from people who are - quite simply - not Christian at all while claiming to be so. There is so much bigotry, hatred and fear from many Christians... what are they so afraid of...??? Do they think God is incapable of monitoring his own flock and that they have to constantly stick their noses into other peoples lives and judge them according to their own limited lifestyle...??? Are we not all different and worthy of God - Alah's love ? If you answer anything other than YES, then you are not a Christian and not a very nice person.

Inquirer

I have a question that may be somewhat off topic, but to Jimbo...

When was "Alah" and Elohim the same being? If you look at the Qu'ran and the Bible, you will find that "Alah" is not the same as Elohim. Statutes are different, goals of life are directed in total opposite directions, focus is different, and way to repentence is opposing. Thus following a belief based on opposites, (in the case that you follow both the New Testament and the Qu'ran), then you fool only yourself into a pool of questions and confusion when trying to find spiritual guidance. There is only one God, Jesus teaches us that and it comprises of God the Father (Elohim), God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost according to the 1611 English Translation). Elohim represents the Trinity and this is revealed in scripture and Jesus proclaims Himself when He was questioned at the Sanhedrin court before His death on the cross which paid the sin debt and gave to us (sinners) the chance to gain connection back to God the Father. "Alah" despises this of the Christians and commends followers to persecute the disbeliever and condemns them to Hell along with the Jews and any disbelievers. Christians, who live the Word of Jesus Christ should not condemn those against Him to Hell, for we are told not to judge but discern the way of a man. By the fruits of a man shall he be known. However, Elohim has given us clear instruction and has shown to us that His will is for us to turn to Him. If we deny Him (Elohim), we deny our own lives the life found within the true Bread of Life and of Everlasting Water which is found through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your time.

Cristiano

Mr. Perez,

Gay ppl don't go around saying that "Fundamentalism represents an abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumor in the body of society". We are pacifist people, we dont agress ppl with words or whatsoever! This pastor had what he deserved inciting hate and prejudice agains the gay community when it has already been proven that to be gay isn't a sickness or an option.

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