Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homosexuality and Hate Crimes: Is America Next?

Greenville Seminary is blessed to have a faithful supporter from Sweden who provides us with a significant gift every month.  Eighty-three-year-old Joanne Holm regularly listens to sermons and lectures from GPTS sources and follows our progress closely. In response to a recent message of thanks from us, Joanne, after some delightful descriptions of picking late-summer wild berries, including Sweden's famous "cloudberries," added the following sobering thoughts:
Your comments about the new fall semester and the large enrollment was good news. However, it brought a disturbing thought to my mind. Some of these young pastoral students are more than likely heading for persecution and jail time — in America!! — if preaching the Biblical truth about sodomy, based on the recent New Mexico Supreme Court decree. Can't call it a decision; it's a decree from the "gay gestapo." And there's DOMA [the federal Defense of Marriage Act] that was struck down in June. The clergy needs brave men today with the current persecution seeming to roll over us at tsunami speed. At my age of 83, I'm reeling with shock.
Åke Green
In Sweden, the land of both my parents, from back in the 1400's and 1700's, here's what I saw happen in 2004-2005. Have you heard of the Åke Green case? Green preached a sermon in 2003 on whether homosexuality was an inborn trait or from the powers of evil — preached to his own congregation in his own church. He called it a "cancerous tumor on society." 
Though he's Pentecostal — and I'm no friend of Pentecostal beliefs — his sermon on this subject was Biblical. And though preaching in his own church, he was prosecuted under Sweden's law against hate speech, was found guilty and sentenced to one month in prison. He took the case to the appeals court, which overturned the conviction. Then it went up to the supreme court which also acquitted Green. In the decision, the court stated that he was, indeed, guilty of violating the Swedish hate speech law. However, if they had convicted him, the European Court, recognizing a wider degree of freedom of religion than Sweden, would probably not uphold the Swedish conviction. Thus Green avoided prison. 
During the hub-bub and the trials, I translated Green's entire sermon, the editorials and news reports for a pastor in Northern Ireland who was interested in following the case in detail.  I really rather would have translated articles about roses and lavender, being an avid gardener.
In the New Mexico case Ms. Holm cited, Justice Richard Bossan wrote that Christian photographers violated New Mexico's Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph a same-sex "commitment ceremony." The photographers were fined thousands of dollars for their refusal.

Bosson admitted that the Christian photographers are now "compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives." But that's the price of tolerance and non-discrimination as demanded by New Mexico law, he said.

“At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” he wrote.

According to Fox News, Bosson said the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and follow their religious teachings, but he offered a sobering warning.

“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” the justice wrote. “The Huguenins [photographers] have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”

(See an analysis of the New Mexico case here. Another case: U.S. Judge in Uganda Case Declares Anti-Gay Sermon Crime Against Humanity)

We thank God for Joanne Holm and her godly concerns for the future of biblically faithful preachers in America and elsewhere. Let's remember her concerns in our prayers and thank God for her faithful support of uncompromising Bible-based theological education at Greenville Seminary. We encourage many to follow her example.