ADF International supports free speech case in France: two Christians initially convicted for ‘hate crimes’ after distributing a testimony on homosexuality; acquitted on appeal
BOURDEAUX – On 25 May, the Court of Appeal in Bourdeaux acquitted two members of an evangelical church in Jarnac, France of ‘hate crimes’ in the case of Boutinon v. State Prosecutor. The two Christian brothers had distributed a pamphlet entitled “Delivered from Homosexuality” that featured a personal testimony of a man whose life had changed after a religious experience.
Following a complaint filed by Adheos (a French LGBT lobby organisation) in November 2015, the Criminal Court of Angoulême convicted the men of incitement to discrimination based on sexual orientation and public insult. The two men were released after the appellate court annulled the proceedings and criticized the many irregularities that occurred during the trial.
Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of every democratic society
“Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of every democratic society. Governments should protect free speech and not seek to limit it, even when they do not like the ideas being expressed. In this case, the two brothers were handing out pamphlets containing a personal testimony. Although their release is good news, the court should have acquitted them under their right to freedom of expression – a fundamental freedom protected by the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.
Chilling effect on freedom of speech in France
“This appears to be the first time that Christians have faced such charges in France. The imposition of a criminal sanction for simply passing out literature in which a person tells his own story will have a dramatic chilling effect on the rights of Christians to speak a politically unpopular truth,” said ADF International allied lawyer Nicolas Duval, who defended the Christian brothers in court.