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Prosecuting Paivi Rasanen for Quoting the Bible Is Making Her an International Star


BY: JOY PULLMANN | AUGUST 15, 2022

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2022/08/15/prosecuting-paivi-rasanen-for-quoting-the-bible-is-making-her-an-international-star/

Paivi Rasanen speaking at the Issues Etc. conference

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Paivi Rasanen must make God laugh. The 27-year member of Finland’s Parliament on trial for tweeting a Bible verse confounds so many pagan slogans.

She’s a mother of five children and grandmother of 10 who didn’t need abortion to simultaneously pull off two demanding careers: medicine and politics. An empathetic woman who eagerly shows pictures of grandbabies on her phone and expresses concern for strangers’ travel plans, Paivi (pie-EE-vee) also refuses to subjugate her reason to emotional manipulation.

She holds fast to Christian teachings about sex as reserved exclusively for lifelong marriage between one man and one woman, for which she’s been prosecuted and investigated now for three years and will be in court again this November. Her case could affect international law and is a foreboding example of where identity politics policies are quickly heading across the world.

“If we break the gender system and if we break the natural marriage system between one man and one woman, then we have dangerous consequences, especially to children,” Paivi told The Federalist in person this summer in Chicago.

This woman of science also firmly believes in supernatural revelation. In her pamphlet on Christian marriage that Finland’s top prosecutor is seeking to ban as “hate speech,” Paivi writes that “Jesus’s death and resurrection is the core of the entire Christian faith. On this the Bible stands or falls. If one does not believe it, there is nothing left of Christianity. And … if I believe this, it follows logically that I must believe everything else Christ teaches in the Bible through the Apostles and Prophets.”

Paivi speaking to a sold-out audience of Christians in Chicago, Illinois, this summer. (Joy Pullmann / The Federalist)

Persecution Spreads the Gospel

As it has often in history, persecution has created global opportunities for Paivi to spread Christian theology: about sex, its design for lasting human happiness, and Christianity’s warm welcome to those struggling with every kind of sin from the God “who hates nothing He has made.” The 2004 booklet “Male and Female He Created Them,” which prosecutors want to ban entirely and fine Paivi for writing, has gone from a few copies in a few conservative Lutheran churches to translated into half a dozen languages and read all over the world.

Rasanen’s 2004 booklet, printed from the online PDF and in its new second edition distributed worldwide.

Paivi and her husband Niilo (nee-loh) spoke this June in Budapest alongside megastar Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and his wife. Paivi said she’s seen especially strong support from Eastern European countries because many there still remember the Communists interrogating people about the Bible, as Finnish police did to Paivi three times for a total of 13 hours.

The Rasanens flew to Chicago right after Budapest so Paivi could speak at the sold-out Christian “Issues, Etc.” conference on June 25. In pearls, a flowered dress, and silvered golden hair, the petite 62-year-old asked the American crowd to pray that her case would “allow for more chances to preach the gospel in public.”

Rasanen’s case is on appeal in Finland and may end up in the European Court of Human Rights, developing precedents that could affect the world. If she loses in court, Paivi told a Christian outlet last year, “It will also affect religious freedom in other Western countries. LGBT groups have a very good network across national borders. They will try to achieve the same in other countries in Europe.”

In Q&A after her talk, Paivi said Finnish Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen is expected to push the case as far as possible because Toiviainen has said identity politics is her top priority. Paivi’s legal help from Alliance Defending Freedom International has told The Federalist they are also prepared to appeal her case as far as possible should she lose.

Paivi Rasanen speaking at the Issues Etc. conference
Image courtesy Issues, Etc.

Persecution Amplifies Word of God’s Mercy for Sinners

Toiviainen claims agreeing with the Bible that sodomy is a sin is a criminal expression of hatred toward homosexuals. Paivi and her legal team have pointed out that if the court interprets the law this way, it will effectively outlaw Christianity and free speech in Finland.

Rather than rejecting homosexuals, as she’s been accused in court, Paivi glows with happiness when relating that gay people have disclosed her “Bible trial” has brought them to faith. In speeches and court testimony, Paivi has emphasized she not only bears no animosity toward homosexuals or transsexuals, she earnestly desires them to join her Christian family by receiving the eternal life that Jesus Christ offers freely to every person.

Paivi has been dragged into European courts and smeared in the press for years as a spewer of “hate speech.” Yet while battling severe jet lag that her husband said often gives her migraines, Paivi expressed not even a flicker of animosity toward her persecutors in Chicago.

Instead, when The Federalist asked if her three-year-and-counting prosecution might be orchestrated by political enemies, she seemed stumped. She conferred with her husband and finally suggested she was simply an easy target as a well-known figure in Finland.

“In all my career I have been known as a Christian and as a biblical Christian who doesn’t accept abortion and homosexual acts and so on,” Paivi told The Federalist. “And that’s why I think that perhaps it is the reason why the prosecutor has targeted just me.”

Family Unites to Fight for Other Families

Acknowledging the Biblical directive that only men serve as pastors has never tied Paivi to the kitchen — although perhaps she’d like to retire there given the suffering her political career has inflicted. Niilo prodded Paivi into running for office nearly three decades ago to try to stop Finland from forcing doctors like her to perform abortions, they told The Federalist.

Niilo Rasanen is a pastor and theology professor at a Lutheran Bible college. Niilo’s widowed mother lived with the couple while their children were young, and Paivi’s parents moved nearby and “helped a lot,” Paivi said. That, with Niilo’s flexibility while earning his doctorate, allowed Paivi to enter public service without sacrificing their children’s needs, they said.

During the five years when Niilo was writing his dissertation, “he was always at home when the children came home” from school, Paivi noted. Paivi and Niilo occasionally pulled out their phones to translate Finnish words into English or check they were using the right words, but Finns learn at least two foreign languages in school, Swedish and English.

Niilo and Paivi Rasanen in Chicago, Illinois, in June 2022. (Joy Pullmann / The Federalist)

In response to a question from the Chicago audience, Paivi revealed threats against her family. When she campaigned against child pornography, she said, a convicted pedophile entered their front yard and threatened their children: “It was quite a difficult time because we had to keep safe our children and they were a little bit afraid many years after that.” The most violent of the recent threats include a rape threat against her son, she said.

These external threats may have helped strengthen family bonds. Paivi and Niilo’s faces light up when they talk about their now-grown children, whom the Rasanens say are a great joy and regularly text their parents Bible verses and prayers.

“The task is communal, we do it together,” Niilo said of their marriage and family. “It has been so busy and hard time in this politic area — very, very busy, very long days. If you are not doing it together, it will not work.”

“I think what has been a great power in our life is that we have felt that these callings and tasks that we have, that they are common,” Paivi added.

From Church Only at Christmas to Global Witness

Born in 1959, Paivi grew up in a remote area near Finland’s border with Sweden, in the village of Konnunsuo. Her father was the agricultural director for a prison there. He oversaw the prisoners raising vegetables and animals to feed and support themselves. Paivi remembers as a girl watching piglets being born.

Her parents went to church only at Christmas, she said, but she learned the Bible from Sunday School and at prison church services. Her family also hosted missionaries to the prison, and they explained Christianity to Paivi and her two younger siblings.

A skilled student, especially in mathematics, young Paivi read all the books in her tiny village library that was open only two hours per week, she said. An adult biography of Nobel Prize-winning Polish scientist Marie Curie particularly inspired Paivi: “I admired her. I thought that I would like to be like her, to do something great.”

At the University of Helsinki, she studied both mathematics and medicine for a half year, but it was too much. So Paivi decided to focus on medicine because “I wanted to work with people.”

Organizing up to 70 Christian students for five years of weekly door-to-door evangelism in university deepened her faith, Paivi told The Federalist: “It was a very important time for me because there were students from different faculties and I had to defend my views, and I had to know [the] Bible because they asked difficult questions.”

She met Niilo doing summer missionary work among immigrants in London, and they married in February 1985, a year after Paivi started working as a doctor. They welcomed their children in 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1996.

Because Paivi kept organizing debates and speakers about abortion among fellow medical students and doctors, the Christian Democrat political party asked her to run for office. The Christian Democrats are a small party that focuses on faith and family. From 2011 to 2015, Paivi served as Finland’s Minister of the Interior as part of a coalition government.

She Fights Like a Woman

Paivi has fought steadfastly not by disposition, but by compunction. She and Niilo chuckled quietly when noting that in university, she flatly refused all public speaking offers and leadership positions.

In person, the two Finns are true to type and their “Minnesota nice” American cousins: polite, soft-spoken, and deferential. In Chicago, Paivi and Niilo attempted for some 15 minutes to get the Uber app to work on their Finnish cell phones before they could be prevailed upon by this journalist to accept a ride.

She would have walked the mile to the conference, Paivi assured, as they had the day before, but that morning’s rain would bedraggle her hair and dress right before her speech. After a bit of emotional discomfort at allegedly imposing, followed by a quick, rain-unaffected arrival, Paivi laughed softly, expressed thanks, and commented that this would be a good anecdote for The Federalist profile.

Paivi Rasanen during audience Q&A in Chicago. Because English is a second language for Paivi, she was given the written questions in advance.

Although she’s a public figure who regularly appears on TV, including a variety show that dressed her in a bear costume to sing to her grandchildren (she showed photographic evidence), Paivi habitually asks for others’ thoughts rather than discussing her own. It’s yet another contradiction to women’s mag-celebrated attributes: expressing her femininity not only doesn’t abrade Paivi’s character, it complements it.

Paivi doesn’t assert herself as a “girl boss” who assumes masculine prosthetics, despite years of public leadership that could have taught her to do so. Her apparent emotional security in being the woman God made her bestows its own authority and charm.

Only Men and Women Fit Perfectly Together

That acceptance of one’s sex as a gift from God is also a foundation of the theological booklet that helped land Paivi in court indefinitely. Cultural Marxism foments a war between the sexes, but the Bible teaches that love means total self-giving: Husbands sacrifice everything to love their wives, and wives submit to their husbands as they do to God. The true war is not between the sexes, but against them, and in war clear chains of command are necessary to protect everyone.

The 1960s feminist war fomented between the sexes has now expanded into a war on sex itself. Now even recognizing the differences between men and women and the exclusive fertility of natural marriage is heading toward being criminalized across the West, and with it the Christianity that protects and celebrates these natural realities.

When she wrote the booklet, Paivi was already well-known as a Christian member of Parliament representing Hame, a rural Finnish province about an hour north of Helsinki. Pastor Juhana Pohjola, elected bishop of Finland’s non-state Lutheran church in 2021, had asked Rasanen to respond to proposals for government licensing of homosexual relationships. Here was a government endorsement of severing natural biological bonds between parents and children that raised both political and theological concerns.

Rasanen’s resulting 24-page booklet is a succinct summary of Christian sexual ethics. “People who submit themselves to God’s guidance in the Bible are repeatedly amazed at how the very Bible teachings hardest to understand contain God’s deep wisdoms,” Rasanen writes in the English translation.

“No choice of policies is ethically neutral,” she notes. “…In actuality, the acceptance of homosexual partnerships meant a more profound change in values than was willingly acknowledged at the time.” For example, she notes, in Finland, those proposing a homosexual partnerships act promised it would affect adults only. Yet immediately after the act passed, the proponents moved to make taxpayers pay for lesbians to be artificially inseminated and for homosexual couples to adopt children who could never know either a father or mother.

The act’s proponents also promised that Finland’s state church could maintain Christianity’s historic teachings if state recognition of homosexual couples passed. Paivi’s trial today, under a law passed seven years after the booklet was published, directly refutes that claim. It also highlights how impossible it is to reconcile the hard-won natural law framework that protects everyone equally with the identity politics that provides special rights to only government-favored groups.

Seeking an Internet Interdiction

Writing the booklet is one of three charges Toiviainen has filed against Paivi. It forms the sole count against Pohjola, the pastor who published the booklet. The two other counts against Paivi relate to her tweet of a Bible verse at the nominally Lutheran state church for sponsoring a homosexual pride parade and comments in a public radio debate she participated in years ago.

How can the #church ’s doctrinal foundation, the #bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of #pride ?” #lgbt #helsinkipride2019
Finnish Christian MP under hate crime investigation for quoting scripture – Premier

In 2019, several Finns lodged complaints against Paivi’s tweet. Police investigated, interrogating Paivi about her beliefs three times. Although the police ultimately recommended against prosecuting Paivi, prosecutors sifted through her three-decade public record. They dug up the three alleged hate crimes and charged her.

The charges against Paivi fall under the legal category of “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” The prosecutors have asked for Paivi’s writings and audio clips to be completely banned from the internet and for her, Pohjola, and his church to be fined up to a third of their annual incomes, but courts could put Paivi in prison for up to six years if she’s found guilty. Pohjola could be imprisoned for up to two years.

During Paivi and Pohjola’s trial in early 2022, thousands of Finnish supporters gathered in Helsinki outside the court. Free speech supporters in other countries rallied at Finnish embassies. The American Family Research Council sent Pastor Andrew Brunson, whom Turkey detained for two years for preaching Christianity, to give Paivi a pledge of prayers from Christians around the world. U.S. members of Congress, international human rights groups, and coalitions of religious believers have also petitioned the Finnish government to stop prosecuting Rasanen and Pohjola’s human rights to free speech and religious exercise.

“It is important that we have the freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” Paivi told The Federalist in Chicago. “Freedom of speech because it is important for everyone. It is important for every minority and majority. For Christians, it is crucial because we have the commandments of Jesus to tell the good gospel to all people…”

“Also I think that it is important to respect in society also everyone’s right to speak and argue and oppose you,” she continued. “So this is [a] fundamental issue.”

For more on this case, read this profile of Bishop Pohjola, who spoke to The Federalist in person in November 2021.


Joy Pullmann is executive editor of The Federalist, a happy wife, and the mother of six children. Sign up here to get early access to her next ebook, “101 Strategies For Living Well Amid Inflation.” Her bestselling ebook is “Classic Books for Young Children.” Mrs. Pullmann identifies as native American and gender natural. She is also the author of “The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids,” from Encounter Books. In 2013-14 she won a Robert Novak journalism fellowship for in-depth reporting on Common Core national education mandates. Joy is a grateful graduate of the Hillsdale College honors and journalism programs.

Why Taiwan Is The Lynchpin Of China’s Quest For Global Dominance


DECEMBER 13, 2021 By Dean Cheng

In recent months, concern has been growing about the potential for conflict in the Taiwan Straits. American defense officials have publicly expressed worry about the ability of the United States to successfully deter the People’s Republic of China (PRC) should Beijing decide to use force against the island of Taiwan. The steady increase in size and frequency of Chinese aerial intrusions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone has exacerbated these concerns.

Are such concerns justified? Yes. To what extent does the fate of Taiwan affect the United States? A lot.

To begin with, there is the geographic importance of Taiwan. Taiwan is part of the so-called “first island chain,” stretching from Japan through Okinawa and Taiwan to the Philippines and the Straits of Malacca. This chain, if in hostile hands, is a barrier to both Chinese military and commercial access to the seas. As important, since China’s economic center of gravity is on the coast from Tianjin to Shanghai to Shenzhen, it is vulnerable to attacks from the sea — or from that same island chain.

Conversely, in Chinese hands, Taiwan and the broader first island chain will serve as a shield for China. Taiwan, in the center of that chain, would be a key factor determining whether China’s military must operate defensively or could operate offensively.

Ownership of Taiwan would provide Beijing other, greater advantages. If China were able to deploy surface-to-air missiles, radars, and airborne early-warning aircraft to Taiwan, Beijing’s warning time of any attack would be substantially increased. Long-range strike forces deployed on the island would provide the PLA Air Force and PLA Navy an unfettered ability to range deep into the central Pacific to attack oncoming forces, while also interdicting supply routes to Japan and South Korea.

This geographic importance is not solely a wartime concern. The PRC is unique. It is a land power that depends on the seas. China needs the oceans to import key resources, the most important of which is food. China is a net importer of food, including staple grains; without such imports, the Chinese population would experience skyrocketing food prices, which in turn could threaten the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In addition, the PRC must import energy, including oil, as well as raw materials. The PRC converts said raw materials into a range of products, from steel I-beams to T-shirts to computers, and exports them around the world. All of this is by way container ships, of which China is now one of the largest producers.

Without easy access to the sea, the CCP would have trouble feeding its people, maintaining its factories, and earning income. Even with the Belt and Road Initiative and other infrastructure investments, for the moment China cannot replace its dependence upon the seas.

There is also the reality that Taiwan is a key link in the global supply chain supporting information and communications technologies. Taiwanese firms, along with South Korean and some other companies, are the key producers of microchips, the silicon-based components that effectively animate the world’s electronics. The current shortage of chips has had downstream effects across industrial sectors, extending beyond information and communications technologies to include automobiles.

Taiwanese firms have more than 60 percent of the global market share of chip production. Were China to somehow jeopardize that capacity, Beijing would have the ability to influence other countries to an overwhelming degree. This would affect not only the United States but such key allies as Japan and Germany.

It is not for the United States to determine the ultimate fate of Taiwan, or dictate the relationship between Beijing and Taipei. But it is in America’s interest to ensure that this sensitive region, with its enormous impact on global economic security, does not see the outbreak of conflict. American efforts to support a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan Straits issue, including deterring a Chinese use of force against the island of Taiwan, are an integral part of sustaining global peace and stability.

Dean Cheng is a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Leftists Are Making Global Culture War Alliances, And So Should The Right


Reported By Sumantra Maitra | DECEMBER 2, 2021

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2021/12/02/leftists-are-making-global-culture-war-alliances-and-so-should-the-right/

Entrenched leftists within the U.S. State Department are supporting the effort to demote Viktor Orban from prime minister of Hungary, if a report in Financial Times is correct. The Biden administration also left Hungary off its invitation list for a forthcoming international virtual Democracy Summit on Dec. 9 and 10 to which some 100 countries were invited.

“Trump and his enablers and those who invaded and attacked our Capitol, they don’t like the world we’re living in and they have that in common with autocratic leaders from Russia to Turkey, from Hungary to Brazil, and so many other places,” Hillary Clinton explained to MSNBC.

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó retorted that Clinton’s remarks about the Democracy Summit proved that “the event has a domestic political character, with invitations withheld from countries whose leaders had good ties with former President Donald Trump . . . We need nobody to judge the state of Hungarian democracy as if in a school exam.”

A superficial reading of this would conclude it’s the big bad Central Euro authoritarians complaining about another American-backed regime change, but there’s more to it and this is just the latest connection to a broader ideological war unfolding across the Euro-Atlantic.

The European Culture War

Hungary has been an important point of discussion among U.S. conservatives. Orban’s party, Fidesz, leads a family-friendly conservative government, where women are tax free if they have more than three kids. Orban’s government has also crushed gender studies and other disciplines, defunded universities, closed Hungarian borders to illegal mass migration, stopped LGBT programs targeted towards children as propaganda, and cut down on abortion.

Alongside Poland, Hungary has formed a semi-alliance of Christian conservative central European powers, and has been an example of sorts for Western conservatives. Hungary offers what Sweden does to leftists: an functioning example of what a social-conservative government might look like in practice.

This is drawing attention from liberals and conservatives alike. Rod Dreher of the American Conservative lived in Hungary on a fellowship often writing about it, and Tucker Carlson of Fox News shot a whole documentary for a week from Budapest.

It’s also invited transnational opposition. Germany’s new center-left coalition of red and green parties insisted they will start a full-on culture war with Poland and Hungary while making the European Union a stronger transnational government.

“Countries which do not live up to the EU’s standards should not expect to receive EU money—a clear message to Poland and Hungary. This general approach applies to the United Kingdom as well,”recent analysis stated, adding that the German coalition wants to make it legal for “trans people to self-identify.”

Meanwhile, Belgium and Netherlands are planning to fund abortion across Poland and Hungary, which limit the practice. “The Dutch parliament adopted a resolution approving the use of state funds to help Polish women obtain abortions, reports Deutsche Welle… The decision follows a similar move in September by Belgium, whose government agreed to provide funding for women in Poland to obtain terminations abroad, as a growing number have done since the near-total abortion ban was introduced,” according to a report.

Just to take one example, consider the implications of Germany allowing self-identification of transgenders, a process that fundamentally goes against biological reality. Given the Schengen borderless mandates within the EU, German transgender individuals could travel everywhere and use their EU special protections to undermine individual national policies about transgenderism, as well as the religious traditions of Hungary and Poland, which are stricter (and, one can say, more democratic) about such rules.

That likely sequence further indicates these countries are not “liberal democracies” (the key word here being liberal), opening them up for further charges of growing authoritarianism, and further clashes in EU courts, the rulings of which are increasingly considered superior to national democracies and lawmaking. In the past that has resulted in the EU clashing with Poland over fossil fuels and with Hungary over LGBT legal preferences and national courts.

Intellectual Compatibility Across Borders

The Polish conservative government, as well as Orban, bear similarities to the socially conservative section within the Republican Party, which consolidated under Donald Trump with increasing exchanges of intellectuals and conferences. The left’s reaction to that ascendence of social conservatives across the globe was therefore somewhat expected, given the new Biden administration staffed with Hillary-era culture warriors. The culture war is transnational, and the battle lines being drawn are naturally ideological as well. On one hand, there’s evangelical internationalist liberalism, which is imperial in nature and is therefore clashing with localist reactions from Virginia schools to villages in Hungary.

“Hungarian-American relations were at their peak during the Trump presidency,” Szijjarto of Hungary also noted when the FT reporter asked why Hungary was the only EU country left out of the planned Democracy summit by Joe Biden. “We have a great deal of respect for the former president, a respect that is mutual. We give the same respect to every elected U.S. president — regardless of what we get in return — but it is clear that those who were on friendly terms with Donald Trump were not invited.”

Hungary was the only country in the EU to be snubbed even when the U.S. State Department coyly added that that was not the case. “As an important part of our bilateral agenda, we continue to press our Hungarian counterparts when we have concerns about developments that erode space for independent media and civil society, curtailed LGBTQI+ rights, and undermined judicial independence,” the State dept said, according to FT. Within hours of its report, someone leaked an old speech of one of Orban’s closest allies that heightened political tensions in the nation.

Democracy Isn’t the Issue; Sexual Chaos Is

Ultimately, however, there are two emerging questions to ponder. One, the complete hypocrisy of the Biden administration is visible. New Zealand, which is growing rapidly authoritarian with vaccine passports, second-grade citizenships, and lockdowns, is invited, but not Hungary, where people can move freely. The undertone of this decision is not lost on conservatives across Europe and possibly the United States: it is not about democracy at all, but about liberalism and sexual rights.

Are Republicans astute enough to see through this, and understand the potential long-term damage the left’s culture war is causing to America’s reputation as the ruling Democratic Party turns increasingly woke, revolutionary, and ideological? Democrats are actively building ideological solidarity and fellowship with other leftist parties across the world, but there’s no such equivalent among conservatives. If it is coming down to a battle of ideas across national boundaries, perhaps cultivating that is something to think about.

The second, and far more crucial, question is: what next for Poland and Hungary and how long can they survive within an openly hostile EU? The combined GDP and manpower of the four conservative central V4-Euro powers led by Poland and Hungary can compete with Germany and France. But at translating that into power, hard and soft, there’s no visible effort of unity.

France and Greece, for example, recently made a bilateral treaty that consolidated their foreign policy into one. There’s no such treaty between Poland and Hungary, or one alongside the UK, for example. Nor is there any visible effort of promoting a socially conservative order across Europe even when the situation is ripe with right-wing voters opposed to a leftist social revolution feeling increasingly voiceless, especially across Northern Europe.

Glimpses of that ideological movement building were once seen in an Orban speech asking Christian refugees from Europe to head to Hungary: “Of course we can give shelter to the real refugees: Germans, Dutch, French, Italians; scared politicians and journalists; Christians who had to flee their own country; those people who want to find here the Europe that they lost at their home,” he said.

If Orban wins re-election this time, against the odds, will we see the consolidation of a conservative bloc right at the heart of Europe? Because the days of hedging might soon be over. When the world turns binary, fence-sitting is usually no longer an option.

Dr. Sumantra Maitra is a national-security fellow at The Center for the National Interest; a non-resident fellow at the James G Martin Center; and an elected early career historian member at the Royal Historical Society. He is a senior contributor to The Federalist, and can be reached on Twitter @MrMaitra.

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:

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