Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Free Speech in Norway Requires Police Approval

Norway, like any other European nation, or any signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognizes the right of free speech. Presumably it extends this right to foreign visitors.

There’s a slight catch, however: everyone has the right to speak freely, provided that they get police approval in advance. This is especially true if the would-be speaker is a Christian.

This, from a country that has tolerated the incitements of Mullah Krekar, allowed him the run of the place, and found itself unable to deport him, all in the name of tolerance.

But when it comes to Christian evangelists, it’s a different story:

Norway Trial Court Finds Missionaries Guilty for Spreading Gospel

Two Christian missionaries, arrested by Norwegian police in May for spreading the gospel during an Oslo parade celebrating the birthday of the country’s constitution, have been found guilty by a Norway trial court.

US evangelist Larry Keefer from Tampa, Florida, and Norwegian evangelist, Petar Keseljevic were attending the May 17 national event in Oslo, celebrating the 1814 ratification of Norway’s constitution, when police arrested the Christian missionaries as they were conversing with several members of the crowd beyond the parade lines.

LifeSiteNews has learned from the International Human Rights Group (IHRG) that the trial court in Oslo found both missionaries guilty for failing to obey the police. IHRG President Joel Thornton is awaiting the English translation of the ruling from the court, but spoke to LifeSiteNews about the verdict.

“The court issued a written opinion, which I am waiting on in English from the court, that the police law has to be obeyed because the police were trying to keep the peace,” said Thornton. “The Norwegians have a police law that is absolute, meaning that there is no discretion when you are participating in a legitimate activity and the police ask you to leave. You must obey the police at any cost and the courts will not be moved by your right to freedom of expression or religion.”

You must obey the police, and there is no recourse if they overreach their legitimate authority. In effect, the police in Norway create the law when they issue their instructions.
- - - - - - - - -
Thornton explained that the decision against Keefer and Keseljevic as it stands has serious ramifications for the rights of Christians in Europe.

“If this decision is upheld it will, in effect, mean that Articles 9, freedom of religion, and Article 10, freedom of expression, of the European Convention on Human Rights are only valid if the police in Norway approve of your speech,” Thornton continued. “Otherwise they can arrest you at any time and stop your speech.”

[…]

IHRG has stated they are prepared to take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg “to protect the right of Christians to non-disruptively share their faith in public in Europe.”

We’re used to the idea that Christians are persecuted in Indonesia, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria, and Turkey. But the persecution is now moving into Europe itself.


Hat tip: SK.

19 comments:

no2liberals said...

It also sends the message to the general populace, that Christianity does not hold a valued place in society. This, along with the message that Islam does, by virtue of no state sanctions on it's words or conduct.
Christianity is the single greatest threat to Islam, and it appears the authorities aim to remove that threat.

Holger Awakens said...

Fast forward 10 years:

Two Christian missionaries, arrested by Philadelphia police in May for spreading the gospel during a 4th of July parade celebrating the birthday of the country’s constitution, have been found guilty by a Pennsylvania trial court.

randian said...

The noose tightens daily.

Zenster said...

If only rhis could be explained away as some sort of lingering resentment by residual Viking culture for how Christianity doomed any further looting, raping, pillaging and all that other fun stuff those Scandihoovian rowdy-dows used to dabble in.

Sadly, it cannot.

Europe's wholesale rejection of its relatively benevolent Christian roots, even as it warmly embraces poisonous Islam, simply defies rational explanation.

erdebe said...

Im not too sure about this. It depends on what is meant by:
"beyond the parade lines."

If this means that the preachers where conversing with the public nowhere near the parade??

Or does it mean that there is a designated area for the parade and a designated area for the public??

Because if the latter is the case, i dont think that there is anything wrong with the police taking action.
Imagine someone protesting in the middle of a busy crossroad. Then removing that person can hardly be called an attack on free speech but is simply necessary to maintain public order.

And when it comes to maintaining public order it is not unreasonable to expect citizens to obey the police and that it is punishable if someone does not.
Just like everyone has to follow the orders of a traffic cop when hes managing traffic. Drive when the cop says drive and stop when he says stop. And get fined or jailed if you ignore the traffic cop, doesnt seem unreasonable to me.

So if this is the reason for the arrest, the conclusion that in Norway you have only free speech if the police likes what you say or else......., is not supported by these facts.

The situation in Norway might be grim, but i dont think it is as bad as this story seems to imply. Yet!!

Homophobic Horse said...

If you kill yourself, you will become god. Only in revolutionary suicide can you assert control over your life and prove that you are not a spastic meat puppet.

Per said...


And when it comes to maintaining public order it is not unreasonable to expect citizens to obey the police and that it is punishable if someone does not.
Just like everyone has to follow the orders of a traffic cop when hes managing traffic. Drive when the cop says drive and stop when he says stop. And get
fined or jailed if you ignore the traffic cop, doesnt seem unreasonable to me.

No, at least under the First Amendment, which of course is inapposite to Norway,the police may not use a statute granting discretionary power to forbid proselytizing on public streets or sidewalks.
Of course, arrest is only made on failure to obey the officer's order to disperse based on the officer determination that disorder is afoot, but subjecting a constitutional right to a heckler's veto is patently unconstitutional, or at least so the Supreme Court has held since 1948.

Proud Infidel said...

So a person's right to free speech can be negated on a whim by police in Norway? Pretty grim stuff. Bet it's gonna come in handy when it's time to silence any opponents of unrestricted inmigration and/or the EUSSR.

Robert Marchenoir said...

I'm like Erdebe: not sure about this one either. Let's see.

"US evangelist Larry Keefer from Tampa, Florida, and Norwegian evangelist, Petar Keseljevic had come to the May 17 national event in Oslo, where Norwegians celebrate the 1814 ratification of Norway's constitution with flag-waving, parades, and a public appearance of Norway's reigning monarch, King Harald V. Police arrested the Christian missionaries as they were conversing with several members of the crowd beyond the parade lines."

"In their first few dialogues with the police, officers asked them to move away from the Palace of the King, refrain from using a megaphone, and take their message anywhere else along the route out of sight of the King."

"Both Keefer and Keseljevic moved to an area along the parade route where they conversed with several members of the crowd. 'We're here to celebrate today with you and tell you about Jesus,' Keefer told some, while Keseljevic spoke to others and held aloft his banner, 'Only Jesus the Christ can save you from sin and Hell. Read the Bible for details.' "

"An officer then approached Keseljevic and spoke to him in Norwegian about their presence for several minutes and then departed."

"In the meantime, several Oslo citizens objected that the missionaries were showing disrespect to Norway by spreading their religion on a national holiday."

So what happened, according to this very site which is so indignant about the prosecution, is that two people, one of them a foreigner, tried to hijack and disturb Norway's national day parade by spewing out religious propaganda by megaphone.

And all they were asked, by the police, is to do it a little further, without a megaphone, and not in view of the King. They moved on, but seemingly kept using the megaphone -- and held up a banner.

What these two "missionaries" attempted seems to me a blatant lack of respect for Norway's population and its King.

Norway's national day is not -- I'm sure -- a Christian evangelist, or even a religious event. It's a national event.

Shouting Bible slogans out of a megaphone exactly where the king of the country is supposed to lead a parade does not strike me as a legitimate act of freedom of expression. It looks more like breaching the peace.

Norwegians who gathered there did not come to hear this. They came to see their King and celebrate their country.

The "missionaries" could very well have staged their own, separate event. Or chosen a different day and place.

You also have to note that one of them is American. Sorry to break the news to you, but Norway is not an American state. And that was the country's national holiday.

I'm really not sure that a Russian orthodox priest using a megaphone to promote his Church during a similar patriotic parade in Washington would be welcome by the local populace. As a foreigner in the US, try not to stand to attention when the national anthem is sung, and see what happens.

Also note that several Norwegians complained about this propaganda before the missionaries were arrested.

Of course, it would be interesting to know whether these citizens were Muslim. The article does not tell. Still, their reaction is perfectly understandable without the Muslim hypothesis.

The fact that Muslim hate-mongers might be allowed to speak too freely does not mean that we have to condone such acts of disrespect by Christian preachers.

Using provocation tactics similar to Muslims', and howling afterwards at "human rights" when the appropriate reaction is met, will not do.

I suggest these American evangelists try and do the same in Algeria. Or Turkey. Or Saudi Arabia. That would be fun. That would be really brave.

erdebe said...

@Per

"No, at least under the First Amendment, the police may not use a statute granting discretionary power to forbid proselytizing on public streets or sidewalks."

I agree, but im guessing (im no expert on american law) that in the US, the police, under certain circumstances, have the authority to declare parts of the public domain out-of-bounds. Im also guessing that there is no exeption if people are only proselytizing in the designated out-of-bounds-area. Because the reason why one is in an out-of-bounds area is simply irrelevant. One just should not be there, so if an officer tells you to clear off and you ignore this, you get arrested.

"but subjecting a constitutional right to a heckler's veto is patently unconstitutional"

I agree, but im not sure that that is what happened. I suspect the parade line was declared out of bounds for everyone not taking part in the parade. Ignoring this, is what got them arrested. Why they crossed it, is, as i argued earlier, simply irrelevant.

The same goes for something like a murder in a public street. The murderscene 9a part of the public street) is shielded of and declared out of bounds for the public. If one crosses the line anyway and refuses to leave when asked, one gets arrested. And i dont think the supreme court will judge that arrest as unlawfull because the person crossing it was only proselytizing.

So basically im just saying that i think the fact that they were proselytizing has anything to do with them being arrested.

But ofcourse, im not quite sure about this. As i said, it depends on what is meant with: "beyond the parade lines."

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

Oh blah blah blah robert, you're ignoring the key fact that, under the Norwegian constitution, they do in fact have the right to do what they did, on the day celebrating that constitution.

They were arrested, tried and convicted of... what? Exercising their rights under the NORWEGIAN constitution? The iodea that a police force can arbitrarily override your rights when you are not, otherwise, breaking the law is simply wrong. I don't care how you spin it, how you try and claim they were somehow insulting or hijacking this parade - they weren't, their rights under the law were plain and simple. They weren't "insulting", they weren't "rude". They were prosecuted entirely because the police decided they weren't being sufficiently compliant. It is persecution because this law allows the police to arbitrarily override your rights for no reason.
Go to the source; The video shows that they had complied with the request to stop using a bullhorn by the time of the second incident.

Robert Marchenoir said...

"They weren't 'insulting', they weren't 'rude'."

"Oh blah blah blah robert"

"I don't care how you spin it"

***

From the way you phrase your remarks, Archonix, I would not say you could be considered an authority on not being insulting or rude.

Are you Norwegian yourself? The article mentions several Norwegian citizens felt indeed offended. I would have felt the same. Any reasonably patriotic individual in any country would have felt the same. I'm sure many Americans would have felt the same.

You mention the Norwegian constitution. I'm no expert on Norwegian law (I'm not sure you are one either), but I do know a constitution provides only a framework for other laws. Every country has plenty of them. You don't begin to address that problem.

Even if you view the issue only from a strictly legal point of view -- which should not be the case -- just saying they were exercising their rights under the constitution does not fly. There are rights, and then there are duties.

Islamic preachers also "exercise their constitutional rights" when speaking against democracy in the West. Funny you do not make the connection.

Per said...


I agree, but im guessing (im no expert on american law) that in the US, the police, under certain circumstances, have the authority to declare parts of
the public domain out-of-bounds.

No, under the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is not abridgable by any public official high or petty, so declaring public areas off limit is not permissible unless the area is a nonpublic forum.
There are three distinct types of public areas (a) Traditional public forums referring to streets, parks and sidewalks by custom open to the public; (b) Designated public forums referring to public areas only open for limited expressive purposes; (c) Nonpublic forums referring to areas which niether by custom or designation are open for any expressive purposes.
Public streets, parks and sidewalks are clearly traditional public forums for First Amendment purposes and may not be declared off limit for proselytizing or any other protected speech activity.

Im also guessing that there is no exeption if people are only proselytizing in the designated out-of-bounds-area. Because
the reason why one is in an out-of-bounds area is simply irrelevant. One just should not be there, so if an officer tells you to clear off and you ignore
this, you get arrested.

If the persons attempted to hijack the parade I think they would have no right to complain, but unless it's clearly stated as the reason in the verdict, we really don't know. There is also a problem if the law granting police the power to arrest does not provide notice to the citizens as to which underlying conduct may trigger a move on order and subsequent arrest.
If the statute provides that police may arrest based on (a) reasonable suspiscion; (b) disobeying; (c) an order to move on, the law is vague because the citizen doesn't know in advance when the order to move on is lawful.
granting the police unlimited discretion to arrest on a subjective assessment is not a constitutional way around the First Amendment. And arresting someone for exercising free speech is not salvaged by a statute granting unlimited arrest power to the officer on the scene. First, such a power is vague because it does not provide sufficient notice to the individual as to what level of proof is necessary before the officer may order the citizen to move on. Second, whether or not the arrest power is limited by the statute governing arrest, the arrest itself may still be unlawful if it abridges the fundamental right to free speech or assembly.
Of course, if the law simply declares that it shall be an arrestable offense to refuse to obey an order to move on, the prohibition is not vague, but then the law itself is substantively overbroad by subjecting any exercise of free speech or assembly to arbitrary police discretion, or the exercise of the arrest power may be unconstitutional as applied under a specific set of circumstances where abridging the right to speak is not necessary.
Simply giving police unreviewable power to declare any area off limit to speak is un-American and the hallmark of a authoritarian police state.
If any smalltown cop tried that even in a rrural American village , he would be open for a damage claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 which subjects public officials acting under color of law to damage suits for violation of constitutional rights.
Europe is more authoritarian and does not guard civil liberties to the same extend as does the Bill of Rights, so the American preachers may well be surprised to discover that the law isn't on their side.

Conservative Swede said...

Well, at least the Norwegian police seems to do better then the Swedish.

Regarding the Ninja Man a Swedish police official said, after they released him for the umpteenth time:

"He is no big worries for us within the police, he is probably a bigger worry for the general public."

Madre mia!

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

No, Robert, I'm not norwegian. In fact the closest I have been was a brief layover in Oslo on my way to Kalmar to see my wife's family. I don't see what that has to do with things, since you are apparently not Norwegian either.

So, lets deal with your last detail first. I didn't mention Islamic preachers. I agree they have their right to preach but I happen to believe there's a qualitative difference between peacefully saying "God loves you" and saying "God hates you, and we're going to kill you".

These men were not acting in a remotely insulting way. If they were stood along the path taken by the royal procession after the trooping of the colour (See if that can narrow down where I come from eh?) they would not be touched.

You seem to neglect that they weren't actually breaking the law. The fact that some Norwegians felt insulted is not even remotely a reason to arrest these two men. Can you not see that? They were arrested because a few people claimed they felt insulted. ARRESTED for causing a minor inconvenience. Locked up and put on trial for causing a minor offence to a few people who cannot see that the right to free speech is actually a right that applies to all people, equally.

All they were doing was standing there. All they were doing was saying "God loves you." All they were doing... I mean you might have had a point if they were being belligerent but they weren't. They were passive, they complied with the request to quit using that loudspeaker and they stayed out of the way of people. It was people coming up to them, not the other way around.

You can bet if they'd been muslim they would have been completely immune to any actions. And you can bet, if they'd been muslim, the phrase "god loves you" would have probably been replaced with something like "Submit to allah or suffer" or "Freedom go to hell".

Now I grant that I don't know the norwegian constitution all that well but I sincerely doubt that it contains a "duty to not offend" anywhere within it's text. Given it's inspiration is the US declaration of independence and bill of rights it's actually very unlikely that it contains any reference to "duties". This idea of "duties" alongside rights is a very recent phenomenon and is simply untrue; you do not have a "duty" to limit your own free speech in order to prevent the taking of offence by a third party. You have the right and the option to not say anything, of course but, no duty.

If someone wants to take offence then that's there problem.

The problem is simple: This is not about "duties" or taking offence at the passive activities of a couple of preachers (promoting peace and good will, for god's sake). It's about the fact that the police have powers way, way beyond reason and propriety, and about the way those powers are ill-applied and abused to deny certain people their right.

And, you know what? Maybe you ee me as rude, and if you do I don't give a crap because that doesn't alter the fact that these two people weren't. If anyone was rude it was the several people who verbally abused them and in one case physically assaulted them.

You think what I said up there was rude? Boy, you live a sheltered life.

Joanne said...

Some people find the existence of Christians' insulting. I had a professor, who decided, without fact that I was a Christian, possibly because in this particular case, I was being compassionate towards others in a discussion. He went on a totally incoherent hate-filled rant in the classroom directed solely at me. After he was finished and the break started, people came up to me flaberghasted at his outrageous hostility towards me. Some people just hate Christians!

I don't think spreading the Word at a parade is the greatest venue, but perhaps they were trying to make another point.

Conservative Swede said...

Graham,

there's a qualitative difference between peacefully saying "God loves you" and saying "God hates you, and we're going to kill you".

What about "God loves you, and you are going to hell"?

These men were not acting in a remotely insulting way.

Look at the videos. They were pushing the limits, and knowingly. They knew they were provoking, and that was the whole point of what they were doing, what they had prepared for by bringing the camera and how they talked between themselves about the whole thing.

Looking at the videos I think the Norwegian police handled it well. I like especially the policeman in part 1 who said, referring to the Romans 13, that "we are servants of God".

The police needs to keep the order. Walking around naked is for me a way of expressing myself. It's free speech. However, I assume (I haven't tried it) that if I exercise this kind of free speech during May 17 in Norway or July 4 in the United States, that the police would remove me from the site as a way to keep the order.

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

I suppose that would depend where you did it.

What about "God loves you, and you are going to hell"?

A matter of opinion, really. They don't know, they assume that God will be sending people to hell at some point but the key point is that they aren't saying they'll do anything to facilitate it. It's still different from adding "And we'll send you there".

I'm not going to argue about the police. They were doing their job and they did it calmly enough. My problem remains that they have the power to arbitrarily decide what is and isn't free speech without any laws being broken. We have a similar situation here, except rather than the police exercising the power it's the local authorities with their "protest permits", empowering the police to arrest counter-demonstrators who don't have permission to be there.

Joanne said...

I just watched the video, part 1 and 2, and those two Christian men did not do one single thing wrong, except it is illegal to use the speaker, which they refrained from doing after. They couldn't have been more polite. One thing they said at the end that is so true is that the Word of God is offensive to the wicked and it is.

They were in fact being harrassed by the police and a couple men who assaulted them and their property. Why were those two men who assaulted them and their property not taken into custody? No, the two men preaching the Word of God are thrown in the clink. The world has been flipped upside down, and those who cannot see it, I can only pity them for their inability to see....yet.

Those are two fine men, and I would like someday to meet men such as that. God Bless them both.