Dr. Juhana Pohjola

Six members of Congress have written to the US Commission for International Religious Freedom expressing concern over Finland’s prosecution of a bishop and member of parliament for expressing traditional teachings on marriage and human sexuality.

“Free people should not have to violate and recant their deepest convictions to remain part of a free society,” the six members of Congress wrote in a letter released by Rep. Chip Roy’s office (R. Tex).

“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.”

The Rt. Rev. Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) was been charged by Finland’s Prosecutor General with incitement against a group of people earlier this year. The charges stem from a 2004 booklet published by Luther Foundation Finland which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. Finland legalized same-sex marriage in 2017.

“As a Christian, I do not want to and cannot discriminate against or despise anyone created by God,” Bishop Pohjola told reporters earlier this year when the charges were filed. “Every human being, created by God and redeemed by Christ, is equally precious.”

However, “this does not remove the fact that, according to the Bible and the Christian conception of man, homosexual relations are against the will of God, and marriage is intended only between a man and a woman. This is what the Christian church has always taught and will always teach,” he said.

Finland’s Prosecutor General began an investigation of the ELMDF in 2019 for its booklet “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity,” despite an earlier investigation by Helsinki Police which concluded no laws had been broken.

The 2004 booklet argues that homosexual activity must be identified as sin by the church on the basis of the teachings of Scripture. The author, Dr. Päivi Räsänen—a Finnish Member of Parliament—wrote that a failure to recognize sin as sin undermines the very need for a Savior.

Dr. Räsänen was charged with incitement by the Prosecutor General, both for the booklet and for other comments on human sexuality, including tweeting a Bible verse addressing homosexuality. As Bishop Pohjola is editor-in-chief of Luther Foundation Finland’s publications he also was charged.

Päivi Räsänen

“This decision of the Prosecutor General says a lot about our time,” Bishop Pohjola commented. “While I am concerned about the state of religious freedom in our country, I trust that the judiciary will make the right decision.”

An assistant to Representative Roy told the Federalist that the nomination of an American ambassador to Finland could be put on hold by a concerned senator, if Finland does not clarify its position on religious freedom.

The trial is scheduled for January 2022.