FINLAND – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) have published a new letter reaffirming their support for Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) and Dr. Päivi Räsänen, Finnish Member of Parliament. Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen are being prosecuted in Finland for their expression of historic Christian teaching.
“We call on all people of good will to condemn this unconscionable prosecution, to take a stand for freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all, and to pray for Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen and their acquittal,” the letter states. “When we compromise on freedom for just one or two, we ultimately place freedom at risk for all.”
The new letter, which is signed by ILC General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill, LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, and LCMS Director of Church Relations Jonathan E. Shaw, reaffirms an earlier 2021 ILC statement entitled “A Protest and Call for Free Religious Speech in Finland: An International Lutheran Condemnation of the Unjust Criminal Prosecution of the Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, and a Call for All People of Good Will to Support the Freedom of Religious Expression in Finland.” That statement was signed by 48 ecclesial leaders and 45 church bodies and associations, representing hundreds of millions of Lutherans worldwide.
Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen were put on trial in 2022 for the publication of a 2004 pamphlet which had articulated historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. While the Helsinki District Court acquitted them unanimously in 2022, Finland’s Prosecutor General appealed the decision. Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen will face trial again at the Helsinki Court of Appeals from August 22-24, 2023.
The new letter condemns the continued prosecution, saying: “This represents nothing less than a years-long relentless attack against free speech, religious expression, personal moral integrity, and limited government’s proper sphere of jurisdiction as articulated in the Constitution of Finland, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Download the full letter here or read it below: