A Swedish court sentenced a Pentecostal pastor to one month in prison after finding him guilty of offending homosexuals in a sermon. The case was the first trial test of the national law against incitement as applied to speech about homosexuals.

Last year during a sermon delivered in the east coast town of Borgholm, Ake Green described homosexuality as "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumor in the body of society." He called homosexuals "perverts, whose sexual drive the Devil has used as his strongest weapon against God."

During proceedings, the public prosecutor, Kjell Yngvesson, played a tape recording from the sermon. According to the church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning, he justified the arrest by saying, "One may have whatever religion one wishes, but [the sermon] is an attack on all fronts against homosexuals. Collecting Bible [verses] on this topic as he does makes this hate speech."

In his defense, the pastor said he merely wanted to make clear the biblical view on homosexuality, not to express disrespect.

Green's lawyer pointed to the contradiction between religious freedom and freedom of speech on the one hand, and the rights of homosexuals to be protected against discrimination on the other. A verdict of guilty would violate the pastor's right to preach about his beliefs, the lawyer said. Soren Andersson, president of a Swedish federation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, said religious freedom is never a reason to offend people. "Therefore," he told journalists, "I cannot regard the sentence as an act of interference with freedom of religion."

Yngvesson asked the court to impose a prison sentence on the pastor. Green is expected to appeal.

Related Elsewhere:

Ake Green's case has become a cause celebre on many conservative websites.

It's also being hotly debated on the Gay Spirituality & Culture weblog.

More coverage of Sweden is available in our World Report area.