Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Preach

Dec 10, 2002 01:40 PM EST

As evangelical Christians reach out to unreached peoples in the new worlds, the old world loses much of its Christian characteristics. The doors of many of the grand churches are left unopened as church attendance dwindles across many of the European states. And now, actions repressing God’s words be preached take place, undermining arguably the most fundamental rights individuals enjoy – the freedom to express and speak.

In Sweden, reflecting the drop of church attendance since the close of World War II, more than half of Swedish children are illegitimate. A majority of co-habiting couples remain unmarried, seeing no value in marriage. Considered a ‘liberal utopia,’ the government had even blessed homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.

However, in what could be the greatest threat to religious liberty in Europe, the Swedish nation incurs restrictions not on the sexually immoral, but on the conservative, evangelical Christians who choose to rebuke homosexuals.

Sweden already has a law prohibiting the verbal abuse and “agitation” of racial and ethnic minorities, but a draft bill passed by 56 percent of the Rikisdag – Sweden’s parliament, will make pastors who declare homosexuality “immoral” susceptible to criminal charges and prison terms of up to four years. According the lawmakers, the law may even forbid the recitation of Roman Catholic scriptures that notes the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. If the homosexual lobby in Sweden prevails, the law will become a constitutional amendment.

Johann Candelin, president of the Religious Liberties Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance and a Finnish pastor noted, "If the bill passes, it will place Sweden on level with China, with the state defining which theology is permissible."

Svren Andersson, president of the Swedish Federation for Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Rights said his organization will hunt and report “hate speech irrespective of where it occurs.”

Such restrictions on the freedom to preach left many Swedish pastors baffled as Christians now face prison charges for speaking against immoral sexual behavior.

Meanwhile in Canada, three men filed complaints with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission over an advertisement placed in a Canadian newspaper, which contained bible passages declaring homosexuality a sin. Hugh Owens, the Christian who placed the ad quoting Romans 1:26, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and I Corinthians 6:9, was fined $4,500 by the Commission for offensive behavior.

A Canadian lawyer appointed by the Saskatchewan Commission found that while rhetoric disparaging homosexuality was permissible as free speech, such statements combined with passages from the Bible that "expose or tend to expose homosexuals to hatred or ridicule" are punishable.

By Pauline J.
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