The Lutheran bishop in Finland, after his acquittal: “I hope for wisdom but also for courage for us as Christians in our use of words”.
On 30 March, Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola and Member of Finish Parliament Päivi Räsänen, were acquitted of all charges brought against them by the Prosecutor General.
At a press conference yesterday, Pohjola said he was relieved and considered the case historic because he has “never before heard of a pastor being criminally charged with hate speech or incitement against an ethnic group”.
Pohjola was charged because he was responsible for the publication of Päivi Räsänen's booklet "Male and Female He Created Them”. He also published it on the websites of the Luther Foundation and the Missionary Diocese.
“If the charges had gone through, it would not only have been a significant narrowing of freedom of expression, but it would have criminalised basic Christian teaching on sexuality. That is why there are big issues at stake here”, pointed out Pohjola.
Finnish Christian newspaper Uusi Tie asked Juhana Pohjola whether he sees a danger that after the acquittal some Christians will start using truly offensive language towards homosexuals.
“I rather believe that if we had been condemned, it would have aggravated the situation. People would then have gone out to test or challenge this decision. Then social peace could have been affected. In general, the more you try to curb freedom of expression, the more it causes a backlash", answered the Lutheran Bishop.
He stressed that Christians do not and must not have a reason to test whether it is acceptable to say bad, insulting or degrading things about people.
“We are protected by the commandments ‘You shall not kill’, which means that we must not hurt or harm another person, and ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour’. This is the premise that always puts the bridle on our mouths. That is why it has felt bad that we Christians are accused of hate speech. Christians must not hate and must not speak offensively of others”.
Pohjola also underlined that Christians must be able to teach publicly what is a sinful life and what is a violation of the sixth commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”). “I hope for wisdom in this regard, but also for courage in our use of words”, he added.
Juhana Pohjola says that, in principle, he has a very high level of trust in the Finnish judicial system. His father has been a district judge at the District Court of Helsinki and two of his sisters are lawyers.
“It has always been my basic assumption that the judicial system will correct any excesses that may have been committed by the prosecution”.
However, he said he has already been surprised twice in this case. “Of course, it is destabilising. Even though I assumed that the charges would be dismissed, I was concerned whether this kind of gender ideology might have taken over the judiciary, as it has taken over all other social institutions”.
“I appreciate that the judiciary is the last in society to preserve such common sense and Christian freedoms. I am glad that the district court issued a unanimous decision”, Pohjola concluded.
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