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The United States’ commission in defense of religious freedoms has condemned Finnish efforts to prosecute Christians for intolerant speech against homosexuality.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chairwoman Nadine Maenza gave a statement Thursday in support of Former Minister of the Interior Dr. Päivi Räsänen, and Juhana Pohjola, a bishop of the Finnish Lutheran Church. Räsänen was charged with three counts of criminal behavior after talking about her religious views regarding sex and marriage on a radio talk show.
“Religious freedom and freedom of expression protect the right to peacefully express one’s beliefs in public, even if others might disagree with those beliefs. #Finland should not be prosecuting Päivi Räsänen and Juhana Pujola,” Maenza wrote.
REP. CHIP ROY PUBLISHES LETTER IN SOLIDARITY WITH FINNISH CHRISTIAN ON TRIAL FOR ‘HATE SPEECH’
Räsänen, a medical doctor and mother of five, questioned the Finnish Lutheran Church’s participation in an LGBT “Pride” event in 2019. Räsänen was interviewed by police repeatedly after her message to church leadership, and General Prosecutor Raija Toiviainen charged Räsänen with hate speech in April 2021.
The trial verdict is expected to be released in March.
“The defense denied the charges and criticized the prosecution for not presenting grounds for their accusations on the first day of the hearing, but rather concentrating on more general argumentation and biblical-theological deliberation,” the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland wrote on its website. “Since the prosecutors had failed to state the evidence for the charges, that left the defendants with little opportunity to defend themselves against those charges.”
Räsänen has served in the Finnish parliament since 1995 and was the minister of the interior from 2011 to 2015.
“Inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear,” the USCIRF says of its mission. “Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly.”
The USCIRF monitors and advises on religious freedom issues both domestically and internationally.
“While religious freedom is America’s first freedom, it also is a core human right international law and treaty recognize; a necessary component of U.S. foreign policy and America’s commitment to defending democracy and freedom globally; and a vital element of national security, critical to ensuring a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable world,” the commission writes.
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Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy published a letter of support earlier this month to Räsänen and Pohjola, who commended for their determination to fight the charges.
“In the spirit of Christian solidarity, we write to offer you our support, encouragement, and our prayers during this trying time,” Roy wrote in the open letter. “Ms. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, we have kept you in our prayers over the past months as we watched your cases from the United States — knowing that this challenge you face is not merely legal, but spiritual.”
“Over the last three years, you have faced targeted legal harassment simply for confessing Christ and expressing your belief in the teachings of the Bible. Sadly, your public confession of the Gospel has culminated in criminal charges and a day in court,” Roy continued in his letter. “While many would have backed down under the pressure, you have carried yourselves with grace and love for your neighbors while directing people toward Christ.”