Six Republican U.S. representatives Wednesday issued a letter demanding that the United States take action against Finland for criminalizing Christianity through its hate crimes laws.
Prosecutors in Finland are pressing charges against a Protestant bishop and a member of the national Parliament for publicly stating what the Bible teaches about sex and marriage.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola and Parliament member Paivi Rasanen face fines and up to two years in prison under “hate crimes” laws that effectively criminalize speech and set the government up as the arbiter of what religious beliefs are legal in Finland. One of the charges against Rasanen is the alleged crime of posting a Bible verse on Twitter.
“Free people should not have to violate and recant their deepest convictions to remain part of a free society,” the U.S. lawmakers write in response to this situation. “True religious liberty both protects an individual’s right both to hold beliefs that are unpopular with the prevailing cultural winds of the world, but also their right to live out authentically and profess the truths they hold dear without fear of government interference. Those rights are fundamental and unalienable to the whole human race, and it is critical to the flourishing of both the human soul and civil society.”
Rasanen and Pohjola have each been interrogated for hours by Finnish officials for stating beliefs that Christians have held for thousands of years. They will stand trial in January.
Pohjola is the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. His alleged hate crime is publishing a 2004 booklet written by Rasanen about the Bible’s teachings about sex and marriage. Years after the publication of that booklet, Finland passed laws creating legal privileges for LGBT citizens, under which the two Christians are now being accused of “incitement against a group of people.”
In an exclusive interview with The Federalist Tuesday, Pohjola made it clear that he and Rasanen have never incited and would never incite violence against anyone, because God’s love for all people that erases all their sins is another core Christian belief. The pair are being prosecuted solely for nonviolent speech, which the current Finnish government insists is “ethnic agitation,” thereby criminalizing Christianity.
Pohjola noted that prosecutors’ interpretation of Finland’s hate crimes laws effectively make Christians in the nation second-class citizens by limiting their ability to freely speak on public affairs on an equal footing with all other Finnish citizens. These laws also keep Christian pastors and parents from bringing up their own children according to their deepest and most important beliefs, another human right.
“These criminal prosecutions raise serious questions regarding the extent of Finland’s commitment to protection religious freedom for its citizens, as agreed to with its participation in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other multi-lateral organizations,” the U.S. lawmakers’ letter says. “Additionally, punishing citizens for remarks made on social media and a booklet that has been in the public eye for 17 years is a clear abuse of government power. These actions by the Finnish government will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on free speech in Finland and the West.”
The letter calls on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to take action against Finland as a result of its human rights violations in the Pohjola and Rasanen cases. In May, ten globally recognized intellectuals sent a letter to the commission about this case, asking the U.S. Treasury secretary to sanction Finnish prosecutors for this violation of universal human rights.
The legislative assistant for Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told The Federalist that a U.S. senator could also hold up the pending nomination of the U.S. ambassador to Finland to further pressure the nation to fulfill its commitment to human natural rights that include freedom of speech and religion. Besides Roy, the other signatories of the letter are U.S. Reps. Michael Cloud, Byron Donalds, Paul Gosar, Jody Hice, and Doug Lamborn.
Read the full letter below.
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