A German minister who labeled homosexuality as "demonic" and "satanic" has been cleared of accusations of inciting hate by the court.
Almost three years ago, German minister Olaf Latzel of the St. Martini congregation in Bremen, Germany had sparked controversy when he labeled homosexuality as "degenerative." In October 2019, Latzel was hosting a marriage seminar for around 30 couples when he started condemining homosexual practices. The minister's "hate speech" spoke about homosexuals, describing them as "criminals...running around everywhere," during the Berlin Pride Parade.
"All this gender s- is an attack against God's order of creation. It is demonic and satanic," Latzel said, as reported by Christianity Today. The German minister's address was uploaded to YouTube, where the United Protestant Church pastor's speech was met with backlash. As a result, the regional body of the church initiated disciplinary proceedings and the German government started an investigation and later prosecuted the German minister for hate speech.
German Court Decides That Bremen Minister Did Not Incite Hate Towards Members of the LGBT Community
On May 20, 2022, a German court's Judge Hendrik Göhner decided that Latzel was not guilty of inciting hatred against members of the LGBT community. Judge Göhner said that "these statements are more than alienating from a social point of view-especially from one holding such a high office." However, the judge argued that the theological distinction between human beings and their practices may be difficult to discern.
Despite condemining homosexual practices and gender fluidity concepts, the German minister was found not to have incited hatred against LGBT individuals. Judge Göhner said that while the German minister's condemnation of homosexual practices appeared to him as "strange statements," Latzel was not guilty of hate speech.
Latzel's lawyer reported that the German minister is now "happy and relieved" over the acquittal. The latest ruling overturned a decision made by the Bremen District Court in 2020, which ruled that Latzel had committed hate speech and sentenced him to 90 days in prison and issued a fine of about $8,680.
German Minister's 'Hate Speech' and Subsequent Sentence Earns Mixed Reactions
Following Latzel's "hate speech" trial, LGBT rights advocates defaced St. Martini's with pro-LGBT graffiti. Now, these advocates see the German minister's acquittal as an indication that anti-LGBT hate speech could hide behind religion.
But Latzel has had a vocal group of supporters, albeit a small one. Most if not all are conservative Christians in the mainline Protestant churches and the free churches in Germany. Latzel's public defense lawyer Sascha Böttner meanwhile described the prosecution as opening a "gateway to restricting freedom of expression."
Evangelical Focus reported in 2020 that leaders of the Protestant Church in Bremen had first "condemned in the strongest terms" Latzel's "hate speech." However, after he was charged, it commented that they were "deeply concerned that a pastor of our church is condemned for promotion of hate against a group of people." They added that Latel's behavior had smeared the image of the church. Latzel however, maintains a strong online following, with more than 41,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel.