By Elizabeth O’Brien and John Henry Westen
ERLANGEN, Germany, June 26, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A city court in Erlangen, Bavaria, gave Lutheran Pastor Johannes Lerle a one year jail sentence for the “crime” of comparing abortion to the Nazi holocaust.
In response, Jim Hughes, Vice President of International Right to Life Federation has called on pro-life activists internationally to take action on the matter by contacting German authorities to demand freedom of speech and freedom of religion for the pastor (see contact information below story).
Pastor Johannes Lerle compared the annual murder of 150,000 babies through abortion in Germany to the murder of thousands of innocent Jews in Auschwitz. The court, which consisted of no jury and a single judge, ruled that this statement made Lerle a holocaust denier.
On 14 June, Judge Erda Erdenhofner convicted Lerle of a particular crime known as “volksverhetzung”, or “incitement of the people”.
During his address to the court, Lerle defended himself and claimed that his statement was in no way taking away from the gravity of the sufferings of the Jews.
The German Catholic news service kreuz.net reports that the reason for the severity of the punishment is in part due to the pastor’s six previous convictions, which have seen the pastor serve two prison terms lasting eight and a half months in total. He was formerly imprisoned for calling abortionists and their aides “child murderers.”
Brussels Journal reporter Paul Belien notes that German courts have slammed other pro-life advocates with heavy sentences for similar statements. German pro-life advocate Günter Annen, for example, was reported by the Journal as having called for an end to “unjust abortions” in 2005. She received a 50-day jail sentence on the grounds that her claim that abortion is “unjust” is legally inaccurate. The courts decided that her words wrongly implied that abortion is illegal in Germany.
Pope John Paul II underlined the parallel between the Nazi Holocaust and abortion, which he calls “legal extermination,” in his book “Memory and Identity” (2005). He wrote, “It was a legally elected parliament which allowed for the election of Hitler in Germany in the 1930s.” He also pointed out that the same country that declared Jews non-persons less than a century ago has ruled that unborn babies are not persons either (see http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/feb/05022306.html).
Angela T. Wu, International Director of the Becket Fund, an American organization that guards the freedom of religious speech, commented to LifeSiteNews.com, “If these reports are true, this is a harrowing example of a growing trend of government laws that control its citizens’ viewpoints and stifle the free speech rights of religious organizations and practitioners.”
She continued, “Whether or not you agree with the pro-life position, Pastor Lerle and those like him must be allowed to freely espouse his and his church’s views on the issues without fear of government reprisal. While Volksverhetzung laws exist in Germany because of its unique history, that is no excuse for illegally violating the international human right to freedom of belief, which must include the right to profess those beliefs, even those of a controversial nature.”
Calls to the German Embassy in Ottawa for comment were not returned by press time.
To respectfully voice concerns:
President of the Federal Republic of Germany
Tel: +49 30 20 00-0
Fax: +49 030 20 00-19 99
Tel: +49 180 272-0000
Fax: +49 1888 272-2555
Prime Minister of Bavaria
Dr. Edmund Stoiber
Tel: +49 89 / 2165-0
Fax: +49 89 / 29 40 44
Minister of Justice in Bavaria
Tel: +49 89 5597 1799
Fax: +49 89 5597 3580
Mayor of the Town of Erlangen
Dr. Siegfried Balleis
Tel: +49 9131 86-0
Fax: +49 9131 86-26 92
Local Court Erlangen
Tel: +49 9131-782 01
Fax: +49 9131/782-361
(No email address available)
German Embassy in Canada
1 Waverley Street
Ottawa, ON, K2P 0T8
See related LifeSiteNews coverage:
Pope Compares Abortion to Holocaust in his New Book
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