Swedish Pastor Defends Anti-Gay Sermon

Stockholm, Sweden - A Pentecostal pastor charged with hate speech for denouncing homosexuality as a "cancerous tumor" defended his views in Sweden's highest court Wednesday, saying gay sex was an abnormality on a par with pedophilia.

Ake Green, 64, delivered a fiery anti-gay sermon two years ago that triggered a legal battle testing the limits of Sweden's freedom of speech.

Green told the Supreme Court that 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.

Audio broadcasts from the much-awaited hearing were carried live on nationwide TV, which is unusual in Sweden. The hearing was expected to last one day, but a ruling could take several weeks.

Green became the first clergyman convicted under Sweden's hate crimes legislation, which was modified in 2003 to include attacks against homosexuals. An appeals court overturned the ruling earlier this year, but Sweden's chief prosecutor appealed the acquittal at the Supreme Court.

The case has attracted widespread international attention, with some religious groups saying a conviction would be a threat to freedom of religion and speech. Others say an acquittal would open the door to fiercer attacks against Jews, Muslims and gays by right-wing extremists.

In 2003, Green told his congregation on the small island of Oland that homosexuality was "a deep cancerous tumor on all of society," and 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.

Green on Wednesday testified that the "tumor" reference was directed toward the gay lifestyle, not the individuals who practice it.

Prosecutor Stefan Johansson urged the court to send Green to jail for his sermon. He challenged Green's views that gay lifestyle was the root of HIV/AIDS and could bring natural disasters to a country.

"Don't you think that is deeply offensive to homosexuals?" Johansson asked.

A defiant Green answered he understood that gays could be insulted by his sermon, but insisted the purpose was to encourage homosexuals to change their "ungodly" behavior.

"I want to warn young people about the consequences," he said. "When you tell the truth to a person, it can hurt."

Protesters and supporters of Green gathered outside the courthouse.

"We want to defend freedom of religion," said Lewi Freijd, a 16-year-old high school student holding a large orange banner with the same message. "If he is convicted, then you will not be allowed to preach what is in the Bible."

Robert Karlsson Svard, holding a sign reading "I am not a cancerous tumor," told newspaper Dagens Nyheter he hoped Green would be sent to jail.

"I don't want to be cured or surgically removed," he was quoted as saying.