A Swedish Church priest has been defrocked over statements incongruous with his rank, the Church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning reported.
Among other things, the man “expressed himself, directly and indirectly, in an anti-Semitic and Islamophobic way” and “made deeply problematic theological statements”, the church council ruled citing experts' opinion, who found that the limits of freedom of speech and priesthood had been exceeded.
The former priest was found to be a member of the Nordic Resistance Movement, which advocates Nordic self-sufficiency, withdrawal from the EU and mass deportation of non-white immigrants, and has compared Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to Jesus Christ.
“The reason [for the defrocking] is that the man expressed himself in a racist and Nazi way that harms the church's reputation”, Johan Munck, the chairman of the Swedish Church's Board of Appeal, which is the highest instance in the case, explained to Swedish Radio.
The former priest didn't deny his statements, but referred to the freedom of opinion.
“What the Church of Sweden is now doing in its zeal may have consequences. What is coming next? Should priests sympathising with syndicalists, communists, Alternative for Sweden, the Sweden Democrats and others also sent out and put on the note? It's sad that you democrats cry out the loudest about the freedom of opinion, but apply it the least”, the man said.
The outcast priest suggested to the Church newspaper that the Church of Sweden “has betrayed the true God, Jesus Christ”.
On social media, many Swedes praised the decision to defrock the man as “the right thing”, while taking a jab at the Church of Sweden and its partisanship.
“Absolutely the right decision! But had he instead of God praised Mao and the Cultural Revolution, he might have made bishop”, a Facebook user commented.
“Then again we have ministers who believe the Mediterranean Sea to be Auschwitz. And our Prime Minister believes Denmark is like Nazi Germany in the 1930s”, another user mused.
“Isn't it strange that he has to go when we have a lesbian bishop who likes Islam?” yet another pondered, referring to Eva Brunne, the openly lesbian bishop of Stockholm who sparked outrage earlier this year by saying that she has more in common with Muslims than with the so-called Christian right.
At over 5 million members, the Church of Sweden, which is known for its liberal position on issues such as homosexuality and mass immigration, is Sweden's largest religious organisation and Europe's largest Lutheran denomination. However, its membership has been rapidly declining in recent decades (at a pace of 2 percent annually). As of 2018, 57 percent of the Swedish population were members of the Swedish Church, down from 95 percent in 1972.
The Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) is a pan-Scandinavian organisation that numbers several hundred members and seeks to establish a single Nordic National Socialist ethno-state, with a complete stop of non-white immigration. In 2017, the NMR was banned in Finland, although many argued that the ban was rather symbolic, as its members could resurface in one way or another.