Harvard, Princeton and Yale experts say the prosecution of the Christian parliamentarian for incitement against homosexuals “will compel Finland’s lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths”.
The cases of politician Päivi Räsänen and conservative Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola are leading to reactions outside Finland.
The latest expression of support for the two committed Christians charged by the Finnish General Prosecutor with “ethnic agitation” against homosexuals comes from law professors in the United States.
Among the signatories of an open letter sent to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and published on website RealClearPolitics, three are from Princeton University, three from Harvard and one from Yale.
“The Prosecutor General of Finland has undertaken criminal prosecutions that will compel Finland’s clergy and lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths”, the letter says in its opening statement.
After briefly describing the three open cases opened against the politician and the religious leader, the text says the involvement of the country’s top prosecutor “sends an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station: no one who holds to the traditional teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several other religions on questions of marriage and sexual morality will be safe from state harassment should they, like Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, express their moral and religious convictions”.
The investigations against the peaceful expression of their religious beliefs leave Räsänen and Pohjola without the protection of fundamental rights collected in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 10 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, and other international agreements, the letter says.
It is in this context that the signatories ask the USCIRF to “uphold the internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression and religious liberty (…) The United States must now respond to the abuses in Finland as it has recently responded to other violations of religious liberty in non-western nations”.
The law experts also ask the USCIRF to “take account of the violation of human rights by the Finnish Prosecutor General” in the Commiussion’s annual report.
Previously, other groups outside of Finland had reacted to the case. Among them was the European Evangelical Alliance, which sent a letter to the Finnish government expressing their “dismay” over the case.
Evangelical Focus has followed the case since the investigations against Päivi Räsänen started in summer 2019 after she published a social media post quoting Romans 1:24-27 to criticise the involvement of the mainline Lutheran Church in the annual LGBT Pride festival.
From the beginning, the member of the Finnish Parliament and former Interior Minister has said her case is closely linked to the right of every Finnish citizen to publicly and respectfully express their faith convictions.
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