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Christian Pastor on Trial in Finland


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Here:

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Juhana Pohjola wouldn’t be cast to play his own part if Hollywood made a movie about a bishop put on trial for his faith. The Finnish pastor has inherited a place in the church of Martin Luther, but it appears none of Luther’s pugnacity or vitriol.

In person, Pohjola, 49, is forthright but unassuming, and gentle. Stereotypically, the Finn is thin and tall. He often pauses while speaking to carefully consider his next words. He listens attentively to others with far less impressive resumes.

In more than two decades as a pastor, Pohjola has ministered to congregations as small as 30. He has spent his life building a network of faithful churches across Finland, many of which started with a few people gathered for prayer, Bible study, hymn-singing—and communion, if they can get a pastor. In an in-person interview with The Federalist, Pohjola urged fellow Christian leaders to be willing to seek out “one lost sheep” instead of crowds and acclaim.

This is the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for preaching the Christian message as it has been established for thousands of years. Also charged in the case that goes to trial on January 24 is Pohjola’s fellow Lutheran and a Finnish member of Parliament, Paivi Rasanen.

Rasanen’s alleged crimes in a country that claims to guarantee freedom of speech and religion include tweeting a picture of a Bible verse. Potential penalties if they are convicted include fines and up to two years in prison.

As I read this I thought "I bet it's a charge of 'hate speech' pertaining to sexual conduct."

I was right:

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Finnish Authorities: The Bible Is Hate Speech

Rasanen and Pohjola are being charged with “hate speech” for respectively writing and publishing a 24-page 2004 booklet that explains basic Christian theology about sex and marriage, which reserves sex exclusively for within marriage, which can only consist of one man and one woman, for life. The Finnish prosecutor claims centuries-old Christian teachings about sex “incite hatred” and violate legal preferences for government-privileged identity groups.

Writer Rod Dreher pointed out the witch hunt nature of this prosecution: “Räsänen wrote that pamphlet seven years before LGBT was added to the national hate-speech law as a protected class. She was investigated once before for the pamphlet, and cleared — but now she’s going to undergo another interrogation.”

From the Dreher article:

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ROD DREHER: You were interrogated for four hours by the police for things you have written about Christianity and homosexuality. What did they want to know?

IVI RÄSÄNEN: There are two separate police investigations, although they both have to do with freedom of religion and free speech. In both cases, the criminal offense I am suspected of is agitation against an ethnic group.

The background of the first case is this: I was shocked when I heard that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, which I am a member of, announced its official affiliation to Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019. In June, I decided to write a tweet where I asked that how can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?

The police started a criminal investigation about this tweet in August. I was then summoned to a police interrogation that was conducted November 1 at the Pasila Police Station, Helsinki. I was interrogated for almost four hours concerning this tweet. The police asked me if I agree to remove the tweet within two weeks. I answered no. I was asked about the contents of the Letter to the Romans and what I meant by saying that practicing homosexuality is a sin and a shame. I answered that all of us are sinners, but the sinfulness of practicing homosexuality is nowadays denied.

The other police investigation has to do with a pamphlet I wrote 15 years ago. The investigation started in August this year. I have not yet been summoned to the interrogation concerning the pamphlet, but I have understood that it is likely to take place in December. The content of the pamphlet is quite the same as my tweet’s.

...

RD: Is it effectively against the law in Finland to speak about basic Christian beliefs concerning homosexuality?

PR: The law does not prohibit this, and it is legal to speak and preach about what the Bible teaches. Freedom of religion is strongly guaranteed both in our Constitution and in the International Human Rights Treaties. However, more and more so, it seems to be that expressing opinions relating to, for example, marriage belonging between one man and one woman, or the sinfulness of homosexual acts, is politically incorrect, subject to silencing, and frowned upon. My case is a precedent. The Bible is a totally legal book and our church’s doctrinal foundation, according to our law.

Back to the first article:

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Rasanen and Pohjola both have adamantly affirmed “the divinely given dignity, value, and human rights of all, including all who identify with the LGBTQ community.” Christian theology teaches that all human beings are precious, as all are made in God’s image and offered eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And yet they are still criminally charged for their beliefs.

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In advance of the trial, Rasanen and Pohjola have been interrogated by police for hours about their theology. Pohjola told me in the interrogation police treated Christian beliefs as thought crimes. In a statement, Rasanen noted that the police publicly admitted their interpretation of Finland’s law would make publishing the Bible a hate crime.

Sadly, I think there are elements of society in the U.S. that would also want to do this.

"Hate crime" legislation is, I think, a bad idea.  It's too susceptible to misuse. 

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“It is impossible for me to think that the classical Christian views and the doctrine of the majority of denominations would become illegal. The question here is about the core of Christian faith; how a person gets saved into unity with God and into everlasting life though the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore, it is crucial to also talk about the nature of sin,” Rasanen told Dreher. “As we are living in a democratic country, we must be able to disagree and express our disagreement. We have to be able to cope with speech that we feel insults our feelings. Many questions are so debatable and contradictory that we have to have the possibility of discussing. Otherwise the development is towards a totalitarian system, with only one correct view.”

Again, some are not interested in discussion or debate.  They just want to punish and silence, and to use the force of secular law to do so.

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Major International Implications

Humans rights lawyer Paul Coleman, who spoke to The Federalist from his Alliance Defending Freedom International office in Vienna, Austria, says Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases are a “canary in the coalmine” for freedom of speech across the West.
...
“Although all European countries have these hate speech laws, and these hate speech laws are increasingly being used against citizens for things that they say, this is the first time we’ve really seen Christians face criminal prosecution for explaining their biblical views,” Coleman said. “…It’s unprecedented. We’ve not seen attacks on free speech on this level in Europe, and that’s why they are extremely important cases, not just for the people of Finland and Paivi Rasanen and the bishop themselves, but for all of Europe. If this is upheld in one jurisdiction, we will no doubt see it in other jurisdictions as well.”

Including in some states in the U.S., I think.

I am grateful to live in the United States, and to have the ability to contest such things.

Thanks,

-Smac

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My sense is Finland isn't looking for outside advice on how to run their legal system. I could imagine that people in Finland could get upset about legal decisions that have happened in the US. Is the US legal system so fragile that they are amenable from a country that, my guess, is most US citizens couldn't even find on a map?

Edited by Duncan
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11 minutes ago, Duncan said:

My sense is Finland isn't looking for outside advice on how to run their legal system.

Plenty of outsiders comment about American political and legal issues.

For that matter, the Church isn't looking for outside advice as to how to run its programs, formulate and teach its doctrines, etc., and yet plenty of people voice their opinions about such things anyway.  

11 minutes ago, Duncan said:

I could imagine that people in Finland could get upset about legal decisions that have happened in the US. Is the US legal system so fragile that they are amenable from a country that, my guess, is most US citizens couldn't even find on a map?

Are you familiar with the "canary in a coalmine" metaphor?

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Plenty of outsiders comment about American political and legal issues.

For that matter, the Church isn't looking for outside advice as to how to run its programs, formulate and teach its doctrines, etc., and yet plenty of people voice their opinions about such things anyway.  

Are you familiar with the "canary in a coalmine" metaphor?

Thanks,

-Smac

and you don't care about their comments so why care now? The US has enough legal problems to worry about, solve those first

We aren't talking about the church, but the Finnish Legal system

I am familiar with the "canary in a coalmine" metaphor, worry about your own canaries and coalmines- Are you familiar with the "whited sepulchres" metaphor?

 

why does it bother you that other legal minds view law differently then you? 

Edited by Duncan
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We've seen similar over here. Not to the level of a lawsuit just for bible verses, but we've seen an Australian Catholic Archbishop be the subject of an antidiscrimination lawsuit for distributing a booklet (relating to same-sex marriage) created by the "Australian Catholic Bishops Conference" in Catholic schools. It ended up being dropped because neither side would give in and the person that lodged the lawsuit didn't want it drawn out for years.

Then of course there was the whole Israel Folau incident which is still regularly referred to. (Rugby player paraphrased romans on twitter, got fired, took them to court)

Edited by JustAnAustralian
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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

The article provides a number of links.  But sure, you can summarily dismiss the entirety of the article without giving it a fair hearing.  Have at it.

Imagine if I immediately discounted an article solely because the author was gay.  If I implied that this worldview renders its adherents inherently untrustworthy and dishonest. 

Meanwhile, let's see how a "gay" website treats this story:

Huh.  So quoting the Bible causes "harm" to a "community."

The word "properly" here has a distinctily chilling ring to it.

Nothing Räsänen can reasonably be construed as causing or endorsing "bullying, discrimination, intimidation, starvation and violence."

Mr. "I believe in freedom of speech and the right to disagree" Strandberg sure seems to not believe in these things when he dislikes the speech and disagreement, since he is calling on the government to "properly" address Räsänen "speech."

The article goes on to embrace the irony even further:

Right.  Nothing says "I oppose the trampling of human rights" like siding with the government for punishing speech and religious belief.

I'm not sure if these characterizations are accurate.  If they are, I don't agree with some of them.

But I would never endorse the government using its authority to criminally punish her for saying them.  

Pretty chilling that her government is in the business of "investigating" her religious writings.

Gotta love how some folks so readily embrace censorship and punitive measures by government as soon as such things useful for silencing and/or punishing speech and thoughts they dislike.

"Live and let live" my foot.  

Anyhoo, per this article she is charged with "three counts of ethnic agitation over online statements about homosexuals":

The statements.  

She's being criminally charged for giving voice to thoughts.

The press release is in Finnish, but the article continues:

There are actually people who are okay with this lady being criminally charged and punished for daring to say what she thinks.

It's sad that exercising these rights can incur the real risk of being criminally charged and convicted.

It's further sad that there are people who are quite happy to see this sort of thing happen.

Well, you could read up more.

Except . . . when it is.  Here's an article from the Washington Times

Yeah, she definitely deserves criminal punishment and incarceration by the state for doing that.

Prison time for . . . quoting Romans, publicly "speaking about homosexuality" and publishing a pamphlet seven years before the law was changed to include gays as a "protected class." 

Yeah, there's nothing for Christians to worry about.  Until there is.  Then the other shoe falls and the narrative becomes "Well, you had it coming anyway."

"Live and let live" my foot.  

More:

It is disconcerting that there are people who are actually supportive of this sort of the government punishing this sort of thing.  

I guess, for some, Christians aren't deserving of protection from "human rights abuses."

She's not wrong to be concerned about such things.

But she's a Christian who dares to say what she things, so for some she deserves whatever punishment she gets.

There are some who genuinely don't want Christians to have and enjoy those "basic freedoms."

I admire her fortitude.  She's willing to go to prison to defend her rights of speech and religion.

See also hereU.S. academics: Sanction Finnish prosecutor for charging Christians opposing gay marriage

A link to the open letter is here, and is very much worth a read (how often do American academics publicly defend religious liberty?).  Some key bits:

Hmm.  

Quoting Romans = "ethnic agitation."  Huh.

It sure does send that message.

And there are people who are quite happy with that message.

For some, a "universal declaration" doesn't necessarily apply to Christians who dare to say what they think.

For some, it is an acceptable use of governmental power to criminally punish Christians who say what they think.

For some, the punitive use of governmental power to suppress "the right to believe and express one's beliefs" is a good thing.

From the Jerusalem Post: Finnish Evangelical pastor, MP under investigation over anti-LGBTQ booklet

Imagine "inciting hatred" as a brickbat.  A blunt instrument in the hands of government.  It can be used against virtually anyone for virtually anything they do or say.

There are some who are apparently quite happy to let the government use this weapon to punish divergent points of view.  I hope these folks reconsider that.

Sage words.  I think it's reasonable to be concerned that such things can happen, or are happening, in places outside of Finland as well.

There's nothing keeping you from reading up about this.  It took me two minutes to find the above items.

Thanks,

-Smac

You are obviously trying to get everyone worked up about this.  But I am skeptical we know exactly what has been said and how it has been said.  Let's say a minister starts screaming from the pulpit that black people are cursed by God and should not be allowed to be a part of society.  There are plenty of scriptures the minister could use to support that point of view.  And she could claim that she is doing "God's work".  But if it is inciting people to do things to black people that really they have no business doing, then that could be crossing the line no matter how couched in scripture the statements are.  This may be more about what the case is about.

The question I would ask is, How many gays are in her congregation?  If there are none, then why does she even have to bring up the "sin" of homosexuality to her congregation.  Is she JUST trying to stir up hatred towards the LGBT community under the guise of religion?

THIS is why I am not going to get all riled up about something that I honestly do not have enough information on.  I don't know exactly what has been said or how it has been said.  What I do know is that there are thousands of other ministers in Finland that evidently can talk about homosexuality without needing to take judicial action against them. There are plenty of things that we can all be outraged about on a daily basis when we actually don't know all the facts about.  Too often we leap to outrage before knowing the actual facts.  How about wait and see how the court case goes, and then get outraged if the court rules that what she has said has crossed the line from biblical teachings to hate speech?  

Besides all that, I know how you slice and dice things, taking things out of context, and making assumptions on things that I write until I barely recognize what I and others actually wrote.  You are not really someone that I trust is telling the whole story of what is going on or what the real intent of what the person had to say. 

 

 

Edited by california boy
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2 hours ago, Duncan said:

 

why does it bother you that other legal minds view law differently then you? 

Those "other legal minds" do not have merely an idle difference of taste from us. These differences of opinion, if reflected in the law, could have serious consequences. It entitles us to an opinion on them. 

At the risk of running afoul of the politics moratorium, northern Europe is often pushed as a model for US political action and philosophy to follow. If that model comes to contain laws like this as an attribute, then that is a problem and we should take note of it. 

2 hours ago, Duncan said:

Are you familiar with the "whited sepulchres" metaphor?

That hardly applies. 

 

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27 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

Those "other legal minds" do not have merely an idle difference of taste from us. These differences of opinion, if reflected in the law, could have serious consequences. It entitles us to an opinion on them. 

At the risk of running afoul of the politics moratorium, northern Europe is often pushed as a model for US political action and philosophy to follow. If that model comes to contain laws like this as an attribute, then that is a problem and we should take note of it. 

That hardly applies. 

 

serious consequences-for them, unless Finnish law somehow applies to the US and vice versa

It does apply

Why is the US still attached to Northern Europe? Didn't you guys fight a war so that you wouldn't be? if you wanted out then be out. Not that other countries need your permission but their laws are their laws and if others disagree then they disagree. As I say are you guys so weak that your laws would be influenced by other countries? You had like 300 years since the Revolutionary War to get your own deal going, so when is that going to happen?

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10 minutes ago, Duncan said:

 

Why is the US still attached to Northern Europe? Didn't you guys fight a war so that you wouldn't be? if you wanted out then be out. Not that other countries need your permission but their laws are their laws and if others disagree then they disagree. As I say are you guys so weak that your laws would be influenced by other countries? You had like 300 years since the Revolutionary War to get your own deal going, so when is that going to happen?

The US is a major nation with continual interaction with the outside world. It is to be expected that we would be influenced ideologically and philosophically by goings-on in other nations. What you appear to expect from us is unreasonable in the extreme. 

You take considerable exception to our having opinions on what goes on in Finland. Are we not allowed to have opinions about right and wrong which are not constrained by national borders? Must our convictions end at the Rio Grande?  And under what authority do you take exception to our opinions - while forbidding us to take exception to their actions? 

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4 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

The US is a major nation with continual interaction with the outside world. It is to be expected that we would be influenced ideologically and philosophically by goings-on in other nations. What you appear to expect from us is unreasonable in the extreme. 

You take considerable exception to our having opinions on what goes on in Finland. Are we not allowed to have opinions about right and wrong which are not constrained by national borders? Must our convictions end at the Rio Grande?  And under what authority do you take exception to our opinions - while forbidding us to take exception to their actions? 

I think you overestimate your global importance in the making and administration of laws in other countries. I, like you and Smac have zero authority. I think it's stupid to worry about ANOTHER country's laws, of which NONE of us have any say as to what goes on.  It's high ranking hypocrisy to think you should be the global boy scout and solving other countries' legal problems when you have your own going on. Why don't you worry about your own "dead man's bones" before you go painting someone else's sepulchres. I hate to tell you but people don't like Americans on a global scale. If you want to have an opinion about other countries' then they should have an opinion and sway with your country, but you guys don't have a squeeky clean record on listening to the wisdom of others.

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10 minutes ago, Duncan said:

I think you overestimate your global importance in the making and administration of laws in other countries. I, like you and Smac have zero authority. I think it's stupid to worry about ANOTHER country's laws, of which NONE of us have any say as to what goes on.  It's high ranking hypocrisy to think you should be the global boy scout and solving other countries' legal problems when you have your own going on. Why don't you worry about your own "dead man's bones" before you go painting someone else's sepulchres. I hate to tell you but people don't like Americans on a global scale. If you want to have an opinion about other countries' then they should have an opinion and sway with your country, but you guys don't have a squeeky clean record on listening to the wisdom of others.

Americans, having made a significant contribution to ending the Holocaust, think it is their eternal prerogative and destiny to stop human rights abuses anywhere they may occur.

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6 minutes ago, mgy401 said:

Americans, having made a significant contribution to ending the Holocaust, think it is their eternal prerogative and destiny to stop human rights abuses anywhere they may occur.

And they had to be dragged into that one. On a global scale on human right abuses, homosexuality in Finland? I am going to throw it out there that gay people in Finland don't need Americans opinions to exercise their human right to their sexuality

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45 minutes ago, Duncan said:

hate to tell you but people don't like Americans on a global scale.

I don’t remember specifics but it was usually about trade…pressure to change laws that protected Canadian groups iirc, but when I was living in Canada there were times I was embarrassed about the way some Americans thought they should have a right to make Canada live by the laws Americans gave to them. When in Russia in early 90s, there was a lot of disdain for the way Americans were sweeping in with all their money and resources and then demanding that the Russians use it according to how the Americans dictated.  If you are giving money, you do have the.right to dictate how it is used, but to then get offended because others see such ‘aid’ as not being charitable so much, but more protecting selfinterest, trying to set it up so that benefits for yourself are top priority of another rather than them focusing on their own needs first…

We have the right to be concern about how other countries’ laws might influence, it is a global world and there is an influence, but personal experience was the reverse was massively stronger the other way, the US influences laws, ideas etc elsewhere much mote than the reverse.

Edited by Calm
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Just now, mgy401 said:

Erm . . . free speech and free exercise of religion in Finland.  

oh which, the US doesn't have that right, unless President of the US is somehow the Prime Minister of Finland as well? . We should change James 1:27 then to say "speak out against Finnish Homosexuality"

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13 minutes ago, Duncan said:

oh which, the US doesn't have that right, unless President of the US is somehow the Prime Minister of Finland as well? 

Naturally.  Just as the US doesn’t have the right to control what Germany does to Jews, or what China does to Uighurs, or what Iran does to gays, or how South Africa handles anti-apartheid advocates, or what Hungary or Poland do to illegal immigrants.

But of course, that doesn’t prevent freedom-loving people anywhere and everywhere from pointing out troubling trends; especially those created and supported by emotionally-fragile jack-booted thugs who want to prosecute anyone who publicly disagrees with their life choices. 
 

Edited by mgy401
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9 minutes ago, mgy401 said:

Naturally.  Just as the US doesn’t have the right to control what Germany does to Jews, or what China does to Uighurs, or what Iran does to gays.

But of course, that doesn’t prevent freedom-loving people anywhere and everywhere from pointing out troubling trends; especially those created and supported by emotionally-fragile jack-booted thugs who want to prosecute anyone who publicly disagrees with their life choices. 
 

yes, killing Jews is the same as a pastor in Finland. Talk about an "emotionally fragile jack booted thug", is that where the trend of US politics has gone? Who knew you and these others all of sudden care so much about gay people in Finland, Do you even know where Finland is? 

I have a solution why doesn't the US allow all the  Finnish gay people to live in the US, that way all you so called "freedom loving" people can love them and take care of them and not feel threatened by a pastor in their home country. Would you help them move in to your city/town?

Edited by Duncan
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