By Mark Ellis —
Police in Finland are investigating a leader of the Evangelical Lutheran denomination for publishing a booklet that lays out traditional biblical norms for sexuality and also contains criticism of homosexual behavior.
Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, is under investigation for the crime of “agitation against an ethnic group,” according to Dr. Gene Veith, in a report on the Lutheran blog “Cranach.”
Sexual orientation was added to a list of protected classes in the relevant statute. The maximum punishment is two years in prison.
“I have blogged about Christianity in Scandinavia and Finland in particular, based on what I learned during my speaking engagements in those regions,” Dr. Veith noted. “This is a church body that broke away from the established state church. It was started by members of independent mission organizations, which have become the home of evangelical, conservative Christianity in the Nordic countries. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese is committed to confessional Lutheranism and is a member, along with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, of the International Lutheran Council.”
The 24-page booklet, titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” describes the traditional Christian teaching regarding sex. “There is nothing hateful in the booklet. It simply lays out what the Bible says about sexuality, including the teaching that homosexuality is against God’s design,” Veith noted.
The author of that booklet, Dr. Päivi Räsänen, is also being prosecuted. Dr. Räsänen is a member of the Finnish parliament and a former Minister of the Interior.
The booklet was written in 2004, before Finland legalized same-sex marriage in 2017. “An earlier investigation of the book concluded that no crime had been committed, but the Prosecutor General has re-opened the case, saying there is reason to believe that it ‘incites hatred,’” Dr. Veith noted.
Dr. Räsänen has been known to publicly stand up for Christian values. “She points out that the Finnish state church is obligated, by law, to base its teachings on the Holy Scriptures, and asks, how could it then be illegal to teach what the Holy Scriptures say?”
Dr. Räsänen, a medical doctor, believes this attack against time-honored Christian truths is dangerous. “Concepts such as man and woman, father and mother, are dearly loved concepts, and as old as the history of humanity. The attempt to break down the gender system based on two different genders hurts especially children. It is unfortunate how uncritically the ideology of sexual diversity and LGBT activism has been supported and endorsed even by churches,” she wrote.
“It is impossible to think that classical Christian doctrine would become illegal in the West,” she added.
Dr. Veith challenges Christians in the U.S. to pray for the church in Finland. “Our Constitution guarantees our freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, giving us much greater legal protections than are common even in advanced democracies such as Finland. But we sometimes find it hard to stand up for our beliefs if they are merely unpopular? How would we bear up if our beliefs were to become criminalized?”
Photo of Dr. Päivi Räsänen, by Soppakanuuna [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] via Wikimedia Commons.