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World News

Legal scholars warn prosecution of Finnish MP over biblical tweet is ‘act of oppression’

by Kelly Valencia

Law professors and scholars from Harvard, Yale and Princeton have written to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom urging them to intervene in the case of the Finnish Christian MP facing criminal charges for sharing her views on marriage and sexuality on Twitter.

In 2019, Pavi Räsänen posted a tweet criticising the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland for participating in a local gay pride event together with a picture of Romans 1: 24-27, a verse that describes homosexuality as shameful. 

She has also been charged for expressing traditional views on sex in a booklet in 2004 and on TV in 2018. Räsänen is now facing up to six years in prison.

Bishop Juhana Pohjola, the Bishop-Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, is also facing criminal prosecution for publishing the booklet in which Räsänen made the comments in 2004.

In an open letter, the group asks the commission to “press our government to use its legal powers and fulfill its duties under U.S. law to aid victims of human rights violations,” as they consider the treatment of Räsänen and Bishop Juhana to be "serious human rights abuses" and "straightforward acts of oppression".

The professors believe the prosecution of both the politician and the bishop could “compel Finland’s clergy and lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths.”

The letter continues: “The Prosecutor General’s pursuit of these charges against a prominent legislator and bishop sends an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station: 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 should they, like Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, express their moral and religious convictions.”

The 10 signatories have also urged the commission to encourage Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken to impose sanctions on Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen.

Last month, the European Evangelical Alliance spoke out in defence of the Finnish MP urging the Finnish government to defend and respect freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief. 

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