Viktor E. Lennstrand (Swedish freethought rally)

On this date in 1889, 5,000 freethinkers gathered in Lill-Jans, Sweden, to protest the tyranny of the Christian Church (Lutheran). The rally was organized by Viktor Emanuel Lennstrand, a former devout Protestant whose first public freethought lecture “Is Christianity a Religion for our Time?” was raided at Upsala University by police on Sept. 25, 1886. Lennstrand was forced to resign his post at the university. Moving to Stockholm he proceeded to give weekly lectures critical of Christianity throughout 1887 and into 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 offense. Lennstrand, poorly treated in prison, became perilously ill. Public outcry persuaded King Oscar II to pardon him on May 2, 1889. In addition to the mass rally Lennstrand organized in 1889, he collected more than 8,000 signatures that year protesting such prosecutions and censorship of freethought.

He was elected to the People’s Congress in 1893 but died two years later at age 34, perhaps from bone necrosis. His opponents spread false claims that God punished him for blasphemous speech by killing him with cancer of the tongue and that he had returned to religion during his dying moments. Neither was true.

Freedom From Religion Foundation