Pastor Accused of Hate Speech Acquitted

Stockhold, Sweden - Sweden's highest court on Tuesday acquitted a Pentecostal pastor accused of hate speech for having denounced homosexuality as a "cancerous tumor" in a sermon.

Ake Green's contentious sermon in 2003 was protected by freedom of speech and religion under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Supreme Court said in a 16-page ruling.

Green, 64, became the first clergyman convicted under Sweden's hate crimes legislation, when a lower court found him guilty of inciting hatred against homosexuals. An appeals court overturned the ruling earlier this year, but Sweden's chief prosecutor appealed the acquittal to the Supreme Court.

Green said the Supreme Court ruling was a relief both for him other preachers.

"This means we can continue to speak the way we have, and therefore it feels very good that they have ruled in way that that there should not be any infringement in our way of preaching," he told Swedish public radio.

In 2003, Green told his congregation 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 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.

The trial ended earlier this month, but the verdict was not issued until Tuesday.

"We are obliged to consider the European Convention on Human Rights and the way in which the convention has been applied by the European Court of Justice," Supreme Court Justice Johan Munck said. "We believe that it is probable that a conviction against Pastor Green would not hold up in the European Court of Justice."

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