A Pentecostal pastor who denounced homosexuality as a "cancerous tumor" in a sermon said Tuesday that he would stop preaching against gays after Sweden's highest court acquitted him of hate speech.
The Supreme Court in Stockholm said Ake Green's anti-gay sermon two years ago was protected by freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights. The verdict ended a legal battle that drew widespread attention in Sweden and abroad.
"This is great for freedom of religion and speech," Green, 64, said by telephone from his home on the island of Oland, off Sweden's southeastern coast.
Even so, Green said he would not deliver any more sermons about gays. "I don't need to," he said. "I have said so clearly where I stand on the issue."
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 engage in bestiality.
Prosecutors said that they respected the Supreme Court's ruling and that it highlighted how national courts must consider European conventions in their decisions.
Critics warned that the decision would open the door for verbal attacks against gays and other minorities.
Soren Andersson, chairman of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, said the ruling would lead to "a growing religious agitation from right-wing extremist Christian groups who use the church as a forum to spread their message of hate."
The ruling came as Sweden's security police released a report saying hate crimes, especially against gays, are increasing in the Scandinavian nation.
A lower court last year sentenced Green to one month in prison, saying he had broken the law by inciting hatred against gays. An appeals court overturned the ruling this year, but Sweden's chief prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court.
Green said his biggest victory might be that the attention surrounding the case gave him a platform to spread his message.