Swedish lawmakers have given initial approval to a law that could have a chilling effect on preaching against active homosexuality. Voting in May, Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, passed on first reading a bill criminalizing "hate speech" against homosexuals. A final reading will occur this fall.

While targeting Nazi and racist hate campaigns, the bill also addresses "church sermons," causing conservative Christians in Europe to sound the alarm.

"The bill clearly violates the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights," said Johan Candelin, president of the Religious Liberties Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance and a Finnish Lutheran pastor. "If the bill passes, it will place Sweden on level with China, with the state defining which theology is permissible."

Göran Lambertz, the Swedish chancellor of justice, declared in a formal note to the Riksdag that a church sermon describing homosexual practice as sinful "might" constitute a criminal offense under the law. Anyone convicted would face up to two years in prison. The chancellor of justice monitors basic civil rights in Sweden.

Lambertz told Christianity Today that the legislation is concerned with "dangerous Nazi campaigning," not with Christianity. But, he added, "The same rules apply everywhere, and I am sure there will be court cases defining [hate speech] also in the religious context."

Prominent homosexuals have said publicly that they will report preachers who "speak disparagingly" about homosexuals from the pulpit.

The Swedish Federation for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights has demanded that no exceptions be made for churches and pastors. Federation President Sören Andersson told CT that his organization will "report hate speech irrespective of where it ...

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