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14K sign prayer pledge for Finnish politician prosecuted for citing biblical teachings on sexuality

Finland, Päivi Räsänen
Finnish Member of Parliament, Päivi Räsänen. |

More than 14,000 people have signed a prayer pledge in support of a Finnish politician as she undergoes a “hate speech” trial for citing biblical teachings on homosexuality. 

Noted religious freedom advocate Pastor Andrew Brunson delivered a letter of support to Päivi Räsänen, a Finnish Member of Parliament facing prosecution for her role in creating a pamphlet promoting the biblical teachings on marriage and sexuality. Brunson delivered the letter, crafted by the Family Research Council and signed by 14,341 people, to Räsänen Monday, as closing arguments took place in her trial for allegedly violating hate speech laws.

The prosecutor general is making the case that Räsänen engaged in hate speech by creating the pamphlet, sending out a tweet criticizing the leadership of the Finnish Lutheran Church for supporting LGBT Pride Month, and sharing her beliefs about homosexuality in a 2019 appearance on a radio show. 

Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland elaborated on the charges faced by Räsänen and himself during a speech at  Alliance Defending Freedom’s office in Washington, D.C., last year. He recalled that on April 29, “the prosecutor general of Finland decided to bring charges against me and … a member of parliament, Mrs. Paivi Rasanen.”

Specifically, the indictment accused them of “incitement of hatred against a group which falls under the section of war crimes and crimes against humanity.” The prosecutor general contended that Pohjola “made and maintained available to the public opinions and allegations defaming and insulting homosexuals as a group on the basis of their sexual orientation” by publishing the pamphlet. 

Brunson's letter stated: 

I, the undersigned want you to be encouraged that I am praying for you and Bishop Juhana Pohjola as you are being persecuted and attacked for sharing the truth of Scripture regarding God’s design for marriage and sexuality. Your bold stand to live out Acts 5:29 by obeying God rather than man is inspiring to Christians in Finland, the United States, and around the world. 

I am praying that the Lord Jesus will give you favor in the courtroom where you are on trial for your faith. May God open the eyes of those deceived by the culture to the truth of His Word. No matter the outcome of your case, may the Lord’s peace surround you as you stand upon His promise in Romans 8:28 "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

In a statement published last month, Räsänen indicated that the court would decide her fate as well as Pohjala’s about a month after the trial concludes. Additionally, she expressed gratitude for “those thousands of people that have supported me during this personally trying process.”

Alliance Defending Freedom International sent out a series of tweets summarizing the closing arguments in the trial, which took place Monday. The prosecution insisted that “The Bible cannot overrule Finnish law,” slammed her comments about homosexuality as “degrading,” and maintained that describing homosexuality as a “sin” can have a “harmful” effect.

Arguing for the defense, Lorcan Price of ADF International told the court that “this prosecution for hate speech has turned into a theological trial of what Christian beliefs can and cannot be expressed in Finland.”

Price added, “It is incredible this trial is happening in a modern European Country and not in a religious theocracy.”

If convicted, Räsänen could face up to two years in prison and a fine. ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman warned that a potential conviction of the Finnish Member of Parliament could have a ripple effect throughout Western civilization.

“Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy,” he said. “The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship. If committed civil servants like Paivi Rasanen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely.” 

The prosecution of Räsänen caught the attention of six Republican members of the House of Representatives, who wrote a letter to the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, asserting that Finland’s prosecution of the politician and Pohjola constitutes a violation of their freedom of religion. 

“These criminal prosecutions raise serious questions regarding the extent of Finland’s commitment to protecting freedom of religion for its citizens, as agreed to with its participation in the organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other multi-lateral organizations,” they wrote.

Reps. Chip Roy, R-Texas, Michael Cloud, R-Texas, Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Jody Hice, R-Ga., and Doug Lamborn, D-Colo., signed the letter to Nadine Maenza, which urged the USCIRF chair to consider adding Finland to the U.S. State Department’s Special Watch List for state actors that violate religious freedom. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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