Viktor E. Lennstrand (Swedish freethought rally)

On this date in 1889, 5,000 freethinkers gathered in Lill-Jans to protest the tyranny of the Christian Church (Lutheran) in Sweden. The rally was organized by Swedish freethinker Viktor E. Lennstrand, whose first public freethought lecture, "Is Christianity a Religion for our Time?," was raided at Upsala University by police authorities on Sept. 25, 1886. Lennstrand was forced to resign his post at the university. Moving to Stockholm, he proceeded to give weekly freethought lectures, critical of Christianity, throughout 1887 and the spring of 1888. That October, he was sentenced to three months for blasphemy. In November, he was sentenced to an additional three months, and in December to another six months for the same crime. Lennstrand, poorly treated in prison, became perilously ill. Public outcry persuaded King Oscar II to free him. The King pardoned Lennstrand on May 2, 1889. In addition to the mass rally Lennstrand organized in 1889, that year he collected more than 8,000 signatures by Swedes protesting such prosecutions and censorship of freethought. In a postscript, Lennstrand was elected to the People's Congress in 1893.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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