Anti-LGBTQ declaration not punishable, Prosecutor says

A Dutch translation of the anti-LGBTQ Nashville declaration is not punishable, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said on Thursday. The Prosecutor said it does not deny that the statements made in the declaration hurt people, but in this case they are protected by both the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression. 

The Nashville declaration made headlines in the Netherlands in January last year, when it was published by Christian newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad and signed by hundreds of religious people, including SGP politician Kees van der Staaij. The manifesto argues that marriage is meant to only be a covenant between one man and one woman, and that good Christians should always reject homosexuality. It also suggests that your sexual identity is something you can be healed of.

This resulted in a flood of reports to anti-discrimination agencies, prompting to OM to investigate for possible criminal offenses. "The OM has come to the conclusion that there is no criminal offense with regard to the statements made in the Nashville declaration; therefore there will be no prosecution," the Prosecutor said on Thursday.

The statements made in the deceleration are "directly related to the beliefs of those involved" and are "relevant to them in the public debate they seek to conduct", the OM said. The statements are therefore protected by the freedom of religion and freedom of expression enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. "In a democratic constitutional state, it is essential that there is plenty of room to make statements, even if they can hurt or distress," the OM said. 

Not all statements made in the context of religion or public debate are automatically un-punishable, the OM said, but in  this case the statements did not "legally exceed the limit of the permissible" in the context in which they were made. 

"The OM realizes that the Nashville statement and passages and words from it have affected people very much, but the extent to which utterances cause commotion and unrest or are undesirable or offensive is not decisive for the legal test," the OM said. .