Prosecutor investigating whether anti-LGBTQ manifesto is punishable

Students walk past a rainbow flag flying above the University of Amsterdam’s Science Park campus, 8 Jan 2019
Students walk past a rainbow flag flying above the University of Amsterdam’s Science Park campus, 8 Jan 2019. (Photo: M. Meijer / NL Times)

The Public Prosecution Service will assess whether the controversial Nashville declaration is punishable, the Prosecutor announced after a commotion arose about a Dutch translation of the anti-LGBTQ text that has now been signed by hundreds of pastors and other orthodox Christians in the Netherlands. How long this assessment will take, is not yet clear, AD reports.

The declaration explicitly rejects homosexuality and transgender people, and suggests that sexual orientation and gender are things people can be "cured" of. It also stresses that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman.

In the assessment, the Public Prosecutor will determine whether the declaration falls under punishable acts like group insult, discrimination, or incitement thereto. For this, there are three criteria: are the words insulting or discriminating, does the context remove the insulting or discriminatory character, and is the statement unnecessarily harmful?

Context will play a big role in this assessment, according to the newspaper. Freedom of speech is not limitless in the Netherlands, but a wide margin is allowed for texts that fall under the social debate or someone's religious convictions. Judges generally allow statements made from a certain religious belief, even if those statements hurt other groups within society. As this declaration sticks closely to the bible, there's a good chance that it will fall under freedom of expression. Then the Prosecutor will have to decide if it caused "unnecessary harm" - were the statements made deliberately to hurt or damage someone. 

One of the people who signed the Nashville declaration is Kees van der Staaij, parliamentarian and leader of Christian party SGP. Despite a storm of criticism from fellow politicians and on social media, he released a statement saying that he stands by the "biblical notions of marriage, family and sexuality" in the declaration.

Gert Jan-Segers, also a parliamentarian and leader of other Christian party the ChristenUnie, said that he does not support the declaration. "I have not signed the Nashville Declaration because I'm afraid that the conversation about faith and homosexuality is not served with this Declaration. I also do not see how gay people - inside and outside the church - are helped with this statement", he wrote on Facebook. According to him, Jesus' first message to this world is that He welcomes everybody. "Whoever you are. I hope that as Christians in our society we will not show an admonishing finger, but above all a listening ear and a helping hand."

Multiple people have since filed charges or complaints regarding the declaration. 

On Monday afternoon the municipality of Amsterdam flew the rainbow flag in protest against the Nashville declaration. "In our city you can be who you are and like who you want", the city said on Twitter.