A group of prominent scholars and human rights advocates have written an open letter to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to protest state prosecutions of Christians in Finland over biblical beliefs regarding marriage.
“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,” write the scholars — who include former members of the USCIRF — in their May 28 letter.
By attempting to coerce Christians and other people of faith to renounce biblical teachings on marriage and sexuality, the Finnish government is committing “straightforward acts of oppression,” the authors contend.
Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen has charged Dr. Päivi Räsänen, a member of the Finnish Parliament and former Minister of the Interior, with three counts of ethnic agitation for “peacefully expressing her views on marriage and sexuality,” the scholars note.
Dr. Räsänen’s “crime” was writing a 2004 booklet titled, Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity, in which she contends that homosexual activity should be recognized by the church as sinful based on the teachings of the Bible.
The Prosecutor General has also charged the Bishop-Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, with one count of ethnic agitation simply for publishing Dr. Räsänen’s booklet, the scholars observe in their letter.
The Prosecutor General’s efforts to prosecute a prominent legislator and bishop send “an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station,” the authors continue, namely, that “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” if they express their moral and religious convictions.
Such prosecutions “constitute serious human rights abuses,” the scholars state, and violate Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 10 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, all of which assert the right of every person “to manifest his religion or belief in teaching.”
“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,” they declare.
The authors go on to “respectfully request” that the USCIRF call on U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to designate Prosecutor General Toiviainen under Section 7031(c), which requires the denial of visas to officials who have engaged in “a gross violation of human rights.”
We ask you to press our government to “use its legal powers and fulfill its duties under U.S. law to aid victims of human rights violations, including Dr. Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola,” they write, and to take account of the violation of human rights by the Finnish Prosecutor General in its Annual Report.