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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 16, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 42
Swiss dismiss hate speech charge against Catholic bishop, LGBT groups appeal
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Swiss dismiss hate speech charge against Catholic bishop, LGBT groups appeal

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer A Swiss court decided on October 9 not to prosecute a Roman Catholic bishop for hate speech against the LGBT community, but a coalition of LGBT groups has appealed.

Pink Cross, a federation of Swiss LGBT rights organizations, filed their appeal October 12.

Their original complaint against Bishop Vitus Huonder was filed with authorities on August 10, eight days after Huonder suggested that LGBT people should be executed.

In a public debate, the bishop quoted Bible passages, notably Leviticus 20:13, which says 'If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.'

The Pink Cross legal brief charged that Huonder represented the passage as 'the church's position on homosexuality,' thus 'inciting people to crime or violence,' in violation of Swiss laws against hate speech.

If Huonder were to be tried and found guilty, he could go to jail for three years.

Bastian Baumann, director of Pink Cross, said in a statement:

'As a figure of authority within the church, Vitus Huonder accepts that his demand will meet with approval among Christians and other fundamentalists and could be followed obediently.'

It's not clear if the bishop actually called for present-day Christians to literally put homosexuals to death or was simply reading the Bible verses.

Pink Cross Director Bastian Baumann told Newsweek that his group filed the legal complaint because they feared that Catholics would take the bishop's words seriously and act on them.

'We believe in freedom of expression, and taking quotes from the Bible is fine,' Baumann said. 'But then he said the words should be applied to real life, which is the equivalent of calling for the death penalty for gay people. We were worried about that. He is the leader of a big church, and he was calling for people to follow his words, and we thought this could be dangerous.'

Some Catholic Church officials tried to distance themselves from Huonder. Bishop Markus B├╝chel of St. Gallen diocese said that people should not be reduced to their sexuality.

Reacting to the controversy, the Swiss Bishops' Conference released a statement in early September saying, 'The Church is open to all.'

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