Six United States Congress members have written an open letter demanding action against Finland for criminalizing Christianity through its hate crimes laws used against people supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
The six Republican Party representatives wrote to the 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.
Prosecutors in Finland are pressing charges against the Protestant bishop and the member of the national Parliament for publicly stating what the Bible teaches about sex and marriage, The Federalist reported on Nov. 10.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola and Parliament member Paivi Rasanen, a former cabinet minister, face fines and could go to prison for up to two years in prison under "hate crimes" laws that are said to effectively criminalize speech.
The magazine commented that the charges "set the government up as the arbiter of what religious beliefs are legal in Finland."
BIBLE VERSE ON TWITTER
One of the charges against Rasanen is the alleged crime of posting a Bible verse on Twitter.
Rasanen and Pohjola have each faced hours of questioning by Finnish officials for stating beliefs that Christians have held for thousands of years said the magazzine.
They will stand trial in January.
Pohjola is the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland.
The hate crimes he faces came after he published 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."
"Free people should not have to violate and recant their deepest convictions to remain part of a free society," the U.S. lawmakers wrote.
"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," says the letter.
"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 both faced hours of questioning by Finnish officials for stating beliefs that Christians have held for thousands of years. They will stand trial in January.
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, 10 US-based university academic approached the Commission, urging it to sanction Finnish Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen for having charged the MP for inciting hate speech on grounds of sexual orientation, Euractiv reported.
In their letter they noted that the Prosecutor General of Finland has undertaken criminal prosecutions that will compel Finland's clergy and lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths.
RESPONSE TO LETTER
In response to their letter, Finnish state prosecutor Anu Mantila told Christian Today that freedom of expression and freedom of religion "are not unlimited."
"We don't accept any kind of pressure against the independent National Prosecutor Authority and the Prosecutor General of Finland," she said.
She noted, "We emphasize that charges against Mrs Räsänen and Mr Pohjola concern hate speech, which is insulting, degrading and violates dignity of homosexuals.
"The Prosecutor General doesn't charge Mrs Räsänen for her traditional opinion on marriage between homosexuals nor for quoting the Bible or explaining its texts. Quoting biblical texts in itself is not a crime in Finland.
She said Räsänen and Pohjola have freedom of religion like anyone else.
"However, this freedom does not justify speech that can arouse intolerance, contempt and even hatred towards homosexuals or any other minority," said the Finnish prosecutor
RealClear Politics quoted the May letter saying that Finnish, Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen has charged Räsänen with three counts of "ethnic agitation" for peacefully expressing her views on marriage and sexuality.
The charges against Dr. Räsänen stem from her authorship of a 2004 booklet entitled, Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity, published by the Luther Foundation, noted RealClear Politics.
In the booklet, Räsänen argues that homosexual activity should be recognized by the church as sinful based on the teachings of the Hebrew Bible and Christian scripture.
The Prosecutor General has also charged Pohjola, with one count of ethnic agitation for publishing Räsänen's booklet.