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In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith


Reported By Joy Pullmann | NOVEMBER 23, 2021

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2021/11/23/in-case-with-global-implications-finland-puts-christians-on-trial-for-their-faith/

In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith
Photo Image courtesy International Lutheran Council

Meet the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for publishing long-held Christian beliefs. 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.

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.”

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.

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.

“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.”

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. ADF International is providing legal support for Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases.

“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.”

Such “hate speech” laws exist in every European country and Western countries such as Canada and Australia, and descend from Soviet influence. Coleman called them “sleeper laws,” saying that in other countries “they could be used any time just like they are in Finland. People need to mobilize against these laws and overturn them.”

Legally privileging certain sexual behavior has thus broken western countries’ promises of equality before the law for all citizens, as well as enabling government discrimination against citizens who exercise their free speech and religious liberty, as in the Baronnelle Stutzman and Jack Phillips cases in the United States.

“Establishing standards of identity” also lets government meddle in theological controversies that are none of its business, said the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, who directs church relations for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and has known Pohjola for decades. Pohjola’s church is an international partner of the LCMS.

From a natural law and historic Western perspective, “the government isn’t supposed to get into people’s brains and tell them what’s right and wrong to believe and say,” Shaw noted in a phone interview. “That’s not their realm. Their realm is in externals, things like protect people in their bodies, go to war when necessary, and punish criminals… This is really what’s at stake [in the Pohjola case]. Government has lost its moorings and doesn’t know its purpose.”

From Part-Time Pastor to Bishop

After theological study in Finland and the United States, Pohjola’s first congregation in Helsinki started with about 30 members, he says. It was only able to support him part-time at first. He remembered his wife accompanying the congregation’s hymn-singing on a piano while their firstborn daughter, a baby at the time, laid on a blanket on the floor nearby.

Finland’s state church began openly disobeying Christian theology concerning sex differences amid the global sexual revolution of the 1960s. So, Christians alienated by the state church’s embrace of anti-Christian cultural demands sought faithful pastors like Pohjola, who are known as “confessional” for adhering to historic Christian confessions. The resulting growth of his tiny congregation gradually led to establishing a seminary, then dozens of mission churches, which grew as the theologically unfaithful state church shrank. In 2013, 25 of these new confessional congregations formed the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland. Today, that diocese oversees 45 congregations and missions and is training 64 pastors.

That growth has been accompanied by suffering, including persecution first from Pohjola’s own church.

First Persecuted By His Own Church

In 2009, Pohjola was awarded the theological journal Gottesdienst’s Sabre of Boldness Award, which is granted “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ, while engaged in the confession of His Pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces, and at the greatest personal risk.” The award honored Pohjola, with other faithful Finnish pastors, for standing firm as Finland’s state church sought civil charges against them for refusing to disobey the Bible’s commands that only men be sent to lead spiritual warfare as pastors.

Like Luther before him, Pohjola was expelled by his own church body in 2014 for adhering to God’s word on this matter. The notice of his discharge declared Pohjola was “obviously unfit to be a pastor.” At the time, he responded with grief but also by saying that he must obey God rather than men, lamenting: “Instead of the Church being purged with God’s Word, she is being purged from God’s Word.”

In the interview last week, Pohjola said being defrocked from “his baptismal church” grieves him to this day. On his mother’s side, Pohjola said, his family includes Lutheran pastors in that church going back to the 17th century Reformation. But he could not disobey God’s commands to retain his social status or employment.

Division or Unity? Yes

Pohjola’s separation from Finland’s state church also had the consequence of uniting him and his flock with other confessional Christians across the globe. The International Lutheran Council is a global network of theologically unified churches, and like the confessional churches in Finland, that network is growing.

Mathew Block, the ILC’s communications manager, noted that the heightened contradictions between increasingly unnatural pagan practices and historic Christian teachings are causing a global “confessional realignment.” It’s forcing people to make a real decision about where they stand rather than allowing them to inhabit the increasingly nonexistent, indecisive middle. This is affecting churches all over the world. While it means divisions in some areas, it also is leading to unity in others. For example, despite other important theological differences, all the world’s largest Christian bodies agree with the doctrines for which the Finnish government is persecuting Pohjola. That allows them to speak in chorus to government leaders.

Already many dozens of top religious leaders across the world have formally raised their concerns with Rasanen and Pohjola’s prosecution to the Finnish government and the United Nations. Several U.S. members of Congress have also asked U.S. agencies to take action against Finland for these human rights abuses.

“I encourage Roman Catholic ecclesiastical leaders and all those who care for souls to speak up and join hands and lock arms with us as we talk about the absolute necessity of our historic Christian values of one man, one woman, marriage, and the freedom to be able to believe it, to say it, to publish books about it, and find practical ways through hospitality, education, and other social engagement to make society strong that way,” Shaw said. “All churches—one could even say all religions but in particular the Roman Catholic faith—this reflects their historic commitments as well.”

The Shepherd Faces Wolf Attacks for the Sheep

In August 2021, the international Lutheran church recognized Pohjola’s steadfast leadership amid persecution by supporting his election to bishop of Finland’s confessional diocese. The ILC hosted Pohjola’s November 2021 speaking tour in the United States, and is raising funds across the world to raise awareness of his case.

“Our mission has been that, if the shepherd sees that one sheep is missing, he knows,” Pohjola said of the churches he oversees. He noted that many people coming to faithful Finnish churches are seeking love and connection from a church family as the secular world becomes increasingly isolated and family-less, in no small part because of pagan sexual behavior and beliefs.

“People don’t go to church for social capital now. This is a serious life and they want to be serious with God. So, churches have to build communities that stand on solid Lutheran, biblical doctrine,” Pohjola says.

While he may not share Luther’s temperament, Pohjola’s response to his own persecution by church and civil authorities does mirror Luther’s simplicity four centuries ago: “Here I stand. I can do no other.” He adds a pastoral message to Christians watching governments turn on them today.

“We have to learn from the past, Christians who have suffered under persecution, and be prepared,” Pohjola said. “But it’s not something to be worried about, because Christ remains faithful to His church and wherever he is leading us, He will come with us. He will provide everything that is needed for the future of His Christians and His church.”

You can hear Pohjola talk about his case and its implications during his November visit to the United States here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=413205860293995

And watch a Federalist Radio Hour interview with Pohjola here:

‘The Gospel of Christ is at stake’: Finnish bishop facing prosecution over Christian values


Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Thursday, November 11, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/finnish-bishop-slams-cancel-culture-the-gospel-of-christ-is-at-stake.html/

Juhana Pohjola
Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Mission Diocese of Finland, speaks at the Alliance Defending Freedom office in Washington, D.C., to discuss his prosecution for sharing a document expressing support for Christian teachings about marriage and sexuality, Nov. 10, 2021. | The Christian Post

WASHINGTON — A Finnish religious leader facing prosecution for publishing a booklet promoting Christian teachings about marriage and sexuality is warning that “the Gospel of Christ is at stake” as Western governments liken such beliefs to hate speech. 

The Rev. Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, spoke at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty law firm, Wednesday to discuss the prosecution he faces for publishing a booklet titled Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.

Paivi Rasanen, a Finnish member of parliament and medical doctor, wrote the booklet in 2004 when Finland was passing laws treating same-sex relationships as equivalent to heterosexual relationships under the law. The booklet concluded that the recognition of same-sex relationships had a detrimental effect on society. At the time of the booklet’s publication, the Finnish government was considering legislation that would enable same-sex couples to adopt children. 

In his address at Alliance Defending Freedom, Pohjola warned that his prosecution illustrates that “the Gospel of Christ is at stake” because of postmodernism and its accompanying cancel culture and hate speech laws, which he believes have been unfairly used against him: “When postmodernism first swept over Western countries, its basic core was denial of absolute truth. The only truth was that you must allow everyone to have his or her own subjective truth.”

“This hyper-individualism continues, but it has now a different tone. If you are against LGBTQ+ ideology, so-called diversity, equality and inclusiveness, you are not only considered to be old-fashioned … but rejected as morally evil. This is what the prosecutor general understands her duty to be, to protect fragile citizens and victims from the intolerant and hateful Christians.” 

After expressing concern about the development of “cancel culture” in Europe and Finland,” he said he agreed with political commentators in the U.S. about “soft totalitarianism in Western countries when all aspects of life, media, business, education, culture, courts, army and church parties are taken over by the same ideology that suppresses freedom of speech and suffocates differing opinions and viewpoints.” 

Pohjola devoted most of his speech to detailing the legal challenge he’s embroiled in. He recalled that on April 29, “the prosecutor general of Finland decided to bring charges against me and … a member of parliament, Mrs. Paivi Rasanen.” 

The indictment accused them of “incitement to hatred against a group which falls under the section of war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Pohjola read aloud the description of his offense, which stated that he “made and maintained available to the public opinions and allegations defaming and insulting homosexuals as a group on the basis of their sexual orientation.” 

Previously, the Helsinki Police Department “pressed charges against me and Mrs. Rasanen arguing that the pamphlet found on our webpage was discriminatory toward homosexuals” in August 2019. While “the police in charge decided to drop the case,” it ended up on the “table of the general prosecutor’s office.” Pohjola added that on Reformation Day, Oct. 31, 2019, “the prosecutor general of Finland announced that she had ordered a preliminary investigation on the subject matter.” 

“We were suspected of being guilty of incitement to hatred against a group,” he said. The Helsinki Police Department interrogated Pohjola on Feb. 11, 2020. He noted that “the interrogation took over five hours” and described the questioning as “cordial but tough.” When asked if he was “willing to take the pamphlet away from your website in two weeks,” Pohjola said no. He told the audience that “If I had said yes, the case … probably would have been settled.”

The booklet was one of several published by Pohjola in conjunction with the Detroit-based Lutheran Heritage Foundation. Other books in the pamphlet series discussed issues such as worship, the Lord’s Supper and sanctification. While the booklet did not generate “any media interest” at the time as “it was just one booklet among the other booklets,” it received renewed attention in recent years as the Evangelical Mission Diocese faced scrutiny for declining to embrace the “ordination of women” and what he described as “other unbiblical practices.” 

“The series [of pamphlets] was later put on our webpage without any fuss,” Pohjola asserted in his remarks. “We handed out this Christian teaching on marriage even to all the members in the parliament.”

“When the prosecutor general has … publicly said that she will give special attention to the hate speech cases when she steps into the office, she, of course, wants to maintain classical Western liberal freedoms of speech and religion grounded on our constitution,” he maintained. “But she interprets these rights in the light of [the] Equality and Discrimination Act.”

Pohjola lamented that “the tendency is to interpret more broadly … vague terms like defaming and insulting speech. And the more broadly you interpret them, you do it at the expense of the freedom of speech.”

“She will take the case if needed through as many appeals through higher courts, even on European Union level, because at [the] European Union level, European Union legislation affects also the national legislation. So, we are prepared for it as well and the judgment is important due to [the] precedent that it sets for the future free speech cases.’ 

“Prosecutor general has taken out of the context one line from there and one from here,” he concluded. “In the police investigation … I tried to draw the big picture of the pamphlet, which consists of basic points of Christian teaching, which is clearly all found in this pamphlet.”

Pohjola emphasized to government officials that the booklet was based on the premises that “We are all created in the image of God, we are all equal and share the inherent equality,” “We are all part of [the] fallen human race and therefore we are all sinners, homosexuals are not greater sinners than all the others, but nevertheless it is sinful to live in a homosexual relationship according to our faith,” and “according to the Christian view, sexual life is made to be in the confines of marriage between one man and woman.”

While Pohjola stressed that “We have again and again said that we confess the God-given dignity, value and human rights of those who we identify them as homosexuals,” “we also call homosexual acts sinful and in discordance with the created order and the will of God as found in the Bible.” He believed that the prosecutor general did not accept this distinction “since sexuality is so deeply rooted in the identity of a person.”

According to the prosecutor general’s line of thinking, “If we call the homosexual living style sinful, we deny the dignity of homosexuals. In other words, to reject homosexuality is to deny their human value as human beings and thus degrading their intrinsic worth and thus insulting them and thus defaming them. If you follow this argument to its logical conclusion, the [ramifications] for Christian teaching and religious freedom are severe.”

Pohjola attributed his prosecution and the widespread acceptance of the aforementioned line of thinking to the rapid decline in religiosity that has come to define his country: “Finland is a modern, safe, clean, wealthy country but on the other hand, it is committing demographical suicide and is under enormous pressure to take more and more immigrants. It is secular and it has lost its Christian and Lutheran roots and families aren’t doing well,” he explained.

“This case is only a faint echo of the cultural eruption that is taking place in Western countries,” he explained. “Although we still have the blue cross in our flag, Finland is not a Christian nation anymore. Church attendance is about 1% and maybe less. The less people know about the basic Christian teaching, the less they understand it and tolerate Christian teaching in the public square.”

Pohjola vowed that despite the legal headwinds and consequences he may face, he would “hold on to this truth and publicly teach it no matter what the cost is not because we want to wage a cultural war in the society but to call people to repentance and through faith in Christ, receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.” 

When Pohjola finished speaking, Sean Nelson, legal counsel on ADF International’s Global Religious Freedom Team, discussed the legal implications of this case. Nelson reported that in many third-world and authoritarian countries, “We regularly see criminal prosecutions and convictions for blasphemy and so-called religious offense laws in these countries against many different religious minority groups including but not exclusive to Christians.” “What we see in many authoritarian countries [is] the use of blasphemy, apostasy and anti-conversion laws to force religious minorities to hide in the shadows in fear of fully practicing their faith,” Nelson lamented. “Dozens of countries are still regularly enforcing their blasphemy laws in favor of majority beliefs and against minorities.” He highlighted ADF’s mission to “support those charged with blasphemy” and seek “the worldwide repeal of such laws.”

Nelson characterized “hate speech laws that have gathered steam in Western countries” as “secular versions of blasphemy laws.” According to Nelson, “Both laws are justified by the alleged harm that minority views, very often religious views cause to the majority, that the offense causes emotional and societal harm, even when the speaker is only sharing their genuinely held beliefs. They both work to marginalize certain views and exclude people from government and positions of influence.”

“They both use broad, ambiguous language and definitions that make it impossible to know precisely what is prohibited and that open the door for arbitrary and biased enforcement and they’re used to coerce others to change their views so that they aren’t punished,” he added. 

“These are also terrible precedents internationally as they provide cover to dozens of authoritarian governments that say, ‘If the west has no problem criminally prosecuting controversial speech, then what’s wrong with us doing that?’” 

Pohjola’s speech at the ADF came on the same day that six Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to Nadine Maenza, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, urging her to take the Finnish government’s actions “into consideration when recommending which countries should be added to the State Department’s Special Watch List,” which consists of countries that are hostile to religious freedom.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

Finland’s prosecution of Christian MP over biblical views is ‘act of oppression,’ legal scholars warn


Reported By Samuel Smith, U.S. Editor | Monday, May 31, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/scholars-urge-us-to-condemn-finlands-prosecution-of-christian-mp.html/

Finland, Päivi Räsänen
Finnish Member of Parliament, Päivi Räsänen. | ADF International

Law professors and scholars are calling on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to pressure the State Department to sanction Finland’s prosecutor general for prosecuting a Christian politician who shared her biblical beliefs on sexuality and marriage. In an open letter published by Real Clear Politics last Friday, professors from Ivy League institutions like Harvard University, Yale University and Princeton University spoke out in defense of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. They both face criminal charges related to Räsänen expressing her Christian views on marriage. 

Räsänen, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, could face up to six years in prison after being charged with three counts of ethnic agitation related to statements she made expressing her beliefs pertaining to human sexuality and marriage. 

Räsänen is the former chair of the Christian Democrats and a former interior minister who has served in Parliament for seven terms. The mother of five, who is married to a pastor and Bible college principal, has been under police investigation since June 2019. 

She publicly voiced her opinion on marriage in a 2004 booklet on sexual ethics, describing marriage as between one man and one woman. She also expressed her views on a 2019 radio show and tweeted church leadership on the matter. Prosecutors determined that her previous statements disparage and discriminate against LGBT individuals and foment intolerance and defamation. The mother of five is adamant that her expressions are “legal and should not be censored.” 

In their open letter, the professors argue that the prosecution of the politician for her remarks could “compel Finland’s clergy and lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths.”

“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,” they wrote. “In the booklet, Dr. Räsänen argues that homosexual activity should be recognized by the church as sinful based on the teachings of the Hebrew Bible and Christian scripture.”

“Second, the Prosecutor General has charged the Bishop-Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, with one count of ethnic agitation for publishing Dr. Räsänen’s booklet,” the letter continues. 

“The Prosecutor General’s pursuit of these charges against a prominent legislator and bishop sends an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station: no one who holds to the traditional teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several other religions on questions of marriage and sexual morality will be safe from state harassment should they, like Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, express their moral and religious convictions.”

The letter argues that the prosecutions “constitute serious human rights abuses” because they violate Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Those documents affirm the right of an individual “to manifest his religion or belief in teaching.” 

The professors urged commissioners serving on the congressionally-mandated independent commission tasked with advising the U.S. government on international religious freedom matters to urge Secretary of State Antony Blinken to sanction Finland Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen because of “a gross violation of human rights.”

The letter’s signatories include Princeton University law professor Robert P. George, Harvard University’s Learned Hand Professor of Law Emerita Mary Ann Glendon and Harvard constitutional law professor Adrian Vermeule. 

Other signatories include: Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; Middlebury College political science professor Keegan Callanan; Yale University history and religious studies professor Carlos Eire; Princeton University math professor Sergiu Klainerman; Princeton University international studies professor John B. Londregan; Harvard University African American studies lecturer Jacqueline C. Rivers; and attorney David Rivkin of the law firm BakerHostetler.

The signatories argue that Räsänen’s prosecution isn’t merely “mundane applications of a European-style ‘hate speech’ law.”

“No reasonable balance of the goods of public order, civil equality, and religious liberty can ever support this suppression of the right to believe and express one’s beliefs. The prosecutions are straightforward acts of oppression,” they write. 

“To uphold the internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression and religious liberty, the United States must now respond to the abuses in Finland as it has recently responded to other violations of religious liberty in non-western nations.”

The letter points to how the U.S. government designated a Chinese government official as a human rights abuser for “his involvement in the detention and interrogation of Falun Gong practitioners for practicing their beliefs.”

“Prosecutor General Toiviainen’s status as a European official must not shield her from sanctions for her abuse of traditionalist Christians in Finland,” the letter argues.

In addition, the letter urges USCIRF to pressure Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to designate Toiviainen for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows for sanctions to be placed on foreign officials believed to be responsible or complicit in severe human rights abuse.

“Prosecutor General Toiviainen and any line prosecutors who choose to assist her plainly meet this description,” the professors argue. The letter contends that there is “no statue of limitations on human rights violations of this magnitude.”

“Should calls by USCIRF to designate and sanction Prosecutor General Toiviainen and her accomplices fall on deaf ears, we respectfully request that USCIRF not simply let the matter drop,” they conclude. 

Räsänen is represented by ADF International, which argues that her case is about the freedom to express religious beliefs in the public square without the fear of government investigation. 

In a March statement, Räsänen said that she did not threaten, slander or insult anyone and that her comments were all “based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.” She vowed to defend her right to “confess” her faith.

“The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets,” she said. 

Earlier this month, the European Evangelical Alliance voiced its support for Räsänen, asking if the prosecutor is “attempting to redefine human rights law.”

“Freedom of expression gives the right for anyone to share their opinion,” EEA General Secretary Thomas Bucher wrote in a statement. “The right to freedom of expression exists to legally protect those that express views which may offend, shock or disturb others.” 

Message From Hurricane Harvey: Americans Helping Each Other


Reported by Joel B. Pollak | 28 Aug 2017

After three days of Hurricane Harvey, the message emerging from Houston and the Texas coast is not one of chaos and destruction, but of collective strength, as Americans help each other survive through the worst of circumstances.

For once, cable news is not dominated by talking heads shouting at each other, but by images of volunteers, black and white, arriving in flat-bottomed boats to rescue neighbors from flooded buildings. Journalists are helping to direct emergency crews to save stranded drivers rather than encouraging enraged mobs to riot against the police.

And President Donald Trump, attacked for weeks for allegedly dividing the nation, is drawing attention to its unity.

At a joint press conference Monday with the president of Finland, President Trump said:

Tragic times such as these bring out the best in America’s character.  Strength, charity and resilience are those characters.  We see neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend, and stranger helping stranger.  And you see that all over.  If you watch on television, you just see such incredible work and love, and teamwork.

We are one American family.  We hurt together, we struggle together, and, believe me, we endure together.  We are one family.

Finland’s leader, too, remarked: “It has been touching to watch the TV and see how people help each other. That is what we basically are built of — helping each other.”

Remarkably, President Trump is winning praise for the federal government’s management of the crisis thus far. He is planning to visit the region on Tuesday, avoiding the mistakes made by his two predecessors. George W. Bush infamously flew over the devastation of Hurricane Katrina; Barack Obama, knowing he would never be held to the same standard, golfed on Martha’s Vineyard during massive Louisiana floods until Trump shamed him into visiting. 

But the story of Hurricane Harvey is bigger than the president alone. It is also a story about the importance of state and local governments, which were so woefully negligent in Katrina, but which faced Harvey fully prepared. (In the former case, Democrats were in charge; in the latter, many — though not all — of the key officials are Republicans.)

Most of all, the story of Hurricane Harvey is about what Americans can do without government: the neighbors who are giving each other shelter from the storms; the “Cajun Navy” from Louisiana, a volunteer armada of small boats, en route to help with search and rescue efforts; the non-profit organizations organizing grass-roots relief efforts.

All of that is happening, notably, in the South — a region the left had targeted for a miniature Cultural Revolution in recent weeks, as mobs swarmed historic Confederate memorials (or anything old enough to be held in suspicion). The South was deemed by its cultural betters to be just as backward and racist as ever, a living rebuke to the nation.

Instead, the people of Texas are showing the world that beneath the mindless political rhetoric, we remain united and strong.

The political winner thus far is President Trump. The real winner is us, the United States of America.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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