WASHINGTON (LifeSiteNews) — Six members of Congress have signed an open letter asking the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to take punitive action against Finland for the country’s prosecution of a Lutheran bishop and a Finnish politician for their stance on traditional marriage.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) led the effort to condemn the Finnish government for its treatment of Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland and Finnish politician Dr. Paivi Räsänen. Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Dr. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Jody Hice (R-GA), Michael Cloud (R-TX), and Byron Donalds (R-FL) signed on to the letter. Their aim is to get the USCIRF to consider the actions taken by Finnish prosecutors when it next suggests countries for the U.S. State Department’s Special Watch List.
The letter says, “Free people should not have to violate and recant their deepest convictions to remain part of a free society.”
“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 society.”
Pohjola published a book written by Räsänen in 2004, called Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian conception of humanity. An investigation was launched in 2019 following the appointment of Finnish Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen, who maintained that the book was “defamatory and insulting” to homosexuals. A previous police investigation had found that no crime had been committed.
Both Pohjola and Räsänen were charged with “ethnic agitation” earlier this year. “Ethnic agitation” is defined in Finnish law as any dissemination in the public forum of an opinion that could put a group of people in danger based on race, skin color, birth status, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or anything that could be compared to those.
Räsänen is also facing charges for a tweet she posted in late 2019, criticizing the Lutheran Church’s participation in a pride parade. Pohjola and Räsänen both face fines and up to two years of jailtime.
Pohjola, speaking with the Federalist, said that “if the subject matter [of the book] itself is criminal then you have to take away the Bibles of the people, because it’s based on that.” Pohjola also expressed concern for the future, noting, “Personally I’m very worried about the situation because whatever the outcome of the case is, this is also sending a signal that if they can come after a bishop and they come after a grandma and a member of parliament, they can come after you.”
A letter was sent to the USCIRF last May, signed by ten prominent intellectuals from various fields, asking the organization to call upon U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to issue sanctions against Toiviainen under Executive Order 13818, effectively accusing her of severe human rights abuses.
Pohjola and Rasamen are expected to stand trial in January.