Bishop and Politician Face Trial

Päivi Räsänen and Johana Pohjola

“Johana Pohjola, 49, and politician Päivi Räsänen, 62, are facing criminal charges accused of violating the equality and dignity of LGBT people. Though Finland has legal protections for free speech and the free exercise of religion, Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen says Räsänen and Pohjola’s actions are criminal incitement against a minority group–hate speech. According to the prosecutor, Räsänen has fueled intolerance and contempt of LGBT people three times: in comments she made on a nationally syndicated talk show on Finnish state-supported radio; in a 2019 tweet where she quoted Romans 1:24–27 to criticize the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF)–one of Finland’s two national churches–for its affiliation with Helsinki Pride; and in a 23-page booklet that Räsänen wrote titled Male and Female He Created Them. Pohjola is being charged for publishing Räsänen’s booklet, which argues against same-sex marriage, contrasts LGBT identities with the Christian notion of what it means to be human, and describes same-sex attraction possibly as being inherently sinful and possibly the result of a ‘negative developmental disorder.’ It was released in 2004 by Luther Foundation Finland, the legal entity behind the ELMDF. Pohjola says, ‘I do not so much fear the outcome of the court case, but the strong signal it gives to many: to be silent. I fear self-censorship and intimidation.’”

“Finnish Bishop,” Christianity Today, Jan. 3, 2022