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.
The hearing is 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 the acquittal was appealed to the Supreme Court by Sweden's chief prosecutor.
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, according to the AP.
Green on Wednesday testified that the "tumor" reference was directed toward the gay lifestyle, not the individuals who practice it.
"It is the actual lifestyle that is the disease on all of society," he said.
Sweden's chief prosecutor, Fredrik Wersall, said in his appeal that the sermon qualified as hate speech because it "expresses disdain against homosexuals, alluding to their sexuality."
Green's lawyer, Percy Bratt, told the court in his opening statement that convicting the pastor would be "a serious violation of his freedom of religion."
Protesters and supporters of Green gathered outside the courthouse before Wednesday's hearing. 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.