The Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania has written an open letter condemning Finland’s prosecution of Christians who hold biblical beliefs concerning marriage and sexuality.
The letter, signed by Bishop Rimantas Kupstys, expresses astonishment and distress that Finnish 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 expressing her biblical views on marriage and sexuality.
The grounds for the charges against Dr. Räsänen — former chairwoman of the Christian Democrats — was authoring a 2004 booklet titled, Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity, in which she argued that homosexual activity should be recognized by the church as sinful based on the teachings of the Bible.
For centuries, Finland “has been considered a country of Christianity and democracy, whose historical foundations, internal systems, legal framework and principles are based on Christian foundations,” the letter declares, and thus it is “incomprehensible” that such abuses of freedom of religion and speech are taking place.
The letter also noted that during the Soviet era Finnish Christians “prayed for the freedom of Lithuania and defended the freedom of our Christians to believe and live according to our faith under the communist atheist government oppression.”
Christian literature printed in Finland was “secretly smuggled to Lithuania,” it adds, and Finland “defended our rights in international institutions.”
Yet now, the “former Minister of the Interior and Member of the Finnish Parliament, medical doctor, mother of five children Päivi Räsänen is facing criminal charges for publicly voicing her deeply held beliefs — professed faith in Christ,” it notes.
The letter insists that freedom of speech “was hard won and is now protected by all major human rights treaties,” and moreover “it is the cornerstone of every free and democratic society.”
“It’s not just Mrs. Räsänen’s freedom at stake, it’s everyone’s,” it declares. “Everyone should be free to express their deeply held beliefs about important issues without fear of censorship or criminal sanction.”
We do not understand such changes and we “condemn” them, it states.
The letter from the Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania echoes criticisms from a group of U.S. scholars and human rights experts, who likewise condemned the Prosecutor General’s actions and have requested that the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom take action to condemn them.
The scholars note that 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 just for publishing Dr. Räsänen’s booklet.
Such prosecutions violate “internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression and religious liberty” and “constitute serious human rights abuses,” the scholars state.
Moreover, efforts to prosecute a prominent legislator as well as a bishop send “an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station,” the authors declare, 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.
In their letter, representatives of the Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania promise prayers for wisdom for the Finnish government “to withstand the virus of neocommunism that is spreading in Europe, trying to destroy the Christian foundations on which the civilization of the peoples of this continent has stood for centuries.”
“We believe that Finland will remain true to these principles and the people of your nation will live in a free country, where people will be free to profess their faith and live according their faith,” they conclude.