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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

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

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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. 

Source: ChristianPost.Com by Ryan Foley

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

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