As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
Following a complaint filed by an LGBT advocacy group, they had been convicted by a criminal court. “Freedom of expression has been protected”, the CNEF says.
In November, following a complaint filed by an LGBT advocacy organization, the criminal court of Angoulême convicted two evangelical Christians of incitement to discrimination and public insult.
These believers had distributed a tract that related the testimony of a man whose life was changed following a faith experience in a church.
During the appeal of the conviction on April 6, 2016, the Procureur Général (Director of Public Prosecutions) had already dropped the charge of public insult.
The court’s decision was deferred until 25 May, 2016, and the Court of Appeals of Bordeaux rendered its verdict and quashed the judgment, annulling the remaining charge because of procedural defects. It acquitted the two defendants and dismissed all of the demands of the civil party.
CNEF: “FREEDOM OF SPEECH PROTECTS ALL OPINIONS”
The National Council of French Evangelicals (CNEF) “welcomed” the decision of the Court of Appeal of Bordeaux, “which strictly applied the procedural rules in sanctioning the judges of the lower court. Nevertheless, it regrets the fact that there was no judgment on the merits of the accusation.”
The organization which represents the majority of evangelical Christians in France adds: “As the defendants’ attorneys reminded the court, the elements needed to prove the underlying charge of discrimination in this case simply did not exist. Isn’t talking about the possibility of changing and of one’s personal experience everyone’s right, whether it is based on religious, political, philosophical beliefs or one’s sexual orientation?”
The CNEF emphasizes that “the freedom of speech is an indivisible right that protects all opinions of every kind. We cannot claim this for ourselves unless we grant it to others as well, except at the risk of transforming it into an instrument of propaganda for a partisan cause.
“The CNEF, which has supported the two accused and their local church from the very beginning, rejoices with them at the outcome of this trial. At the same time, it reaffirms its commitment to defend, everywhere and for everyone, the freedom of expression which is the precious bedrock of our democracy.”
'LIBRE DE LE DIRE'
The National Council of French Evangelicals (CNEF) was officially created in 2010. It is an organisation that represents more than 70% of French evangelicals and more than one hundred para-church organisations. It is a member of the European Evangelical Alliance and the World Evangelical Alliance.
The CNEF has been advocating for freedom of speech with the Libre de le Dire initiative. Read an interview with Jurist Nancy Lefèvre: “Fredom of religion is being redefined as a very narrow right”