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‘A Warning Sign’: New FRC Report Highlights Western Religious Intolerance and Possible Solutions

June 30, 2022

On Thursday, Family Research Council hosted a luncheon at the second annual International Religious Freedom Summit. With an estimated 250 multi-faith advocates in attendance, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins presented a groundbreaking report titled, “Free to Believe? The Intensifying Intolerance Toward Christians in the West.” 

The latest publication from the Center for Religious Liberty at FRC highlights instances of religious oppression against Christians in 14 countries including the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

“How can we in the West claim to want to promote religious freedom around the world when we can’t even get it right here at home?” Perkins asked the audience. “We are not at that point yet, but we are getting there. Let us use this moment to stop and take stock of our situation and remedy the issue — so we can bolster freedom at home to better protect it abroad.” 

Although it is not an exhaustive report, the document covers 99 incidents of Western governments’ violations of religious freedom of Christ-followers since 2020. 

Perkins explained, “The report is intended as a warning sign. Yet we don’t want this report merely to point out problems, but to drive policymakers to solutions. The data uncovered is concerning, and it warrants proactive action from policymakers who value the fundamental human right to religious freedom.”

The luncheon featured various speakers who are undergoing religious oppression including Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen. She is currently awaiting trial after she was accused of “incitement against an ethnic group” for posting Bible verses on Twitter. 

According to the Helsinki District Court, Räsänen’s comments from 2019 were offensive to people who identify as LGBT. But through a unanimous verdict in March of this year she was acquitted. The ruling stated that she acted within the limits of the law in expressing her religious convictions about homosexuality. However, on May 31, the Helsinki Court of Appeals announced they would be reopening the case after a 26-page appeal from the prosecutor. The parliamentarian and mother of five could possibly face hefty fines and up to two years in prison. 

In addressing those attending the FRC sponsored luncheon, Räsänen shared how in the 27 years that she has served in the Finnish government, she has always been open about her faith. 

“So I believe that this all is in God’s hands,” Räsänen said. “I am prepared to defend freedom of expression and religion at all necessary levels of justice — even if necessary, before the European Court of Human Rights. And I feel privileged to have this calling and honor to defend the foundational rights and everlasting biblical values.” 

In closing, Perkins shared ways that leaders can combat religious persecution in the West. These include preparing a public strategy document outlining efforts to protect religious freedom during public emergencies and cooperating with religious groups on the development of emergency measures prior to their use to understand the concerns of religious communities.

Deborah Laker serves as a staff writer at The Washington Stand.