". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Exclusive: Rep. Roy Offers U.S. Support as Persecuted Finnish Leader Faces Third Trial for Her Faith

May 22, 2024

A U.S. congressman is joining Christian leaders in supporting a Finnish parliamentarian who is on trial for promoting biblical marriage. In a letter shared exclusively with The Washington Stand, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) wrote to Päivi Räsänen as she prepares to face her third trial in five years, this time before Finland’s Supreme Court.

“Thank you for your unrelenting commitment to challenging the accusations levied against you, which has earned you the admiration of Christians throughout the world who are encountering increasing hostility,” wrote Roy. “From thousands of miles away in the United States of America, I continue to stand with you. You have unwavering support as you continue to defend free speech and religious expression in Finland. … As you prepare for this newest appeal, please know that millions of Americans stand in solidarity with you.”

Roy encouraged Räsänen to take comfort in the words of Christ: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). He wrote, “While we remain optimistic about your case establishing a stronger legal precedent, it certainly does not excuse or reverse the grievous and unfounded nature of your initial prosecution.” Roy explained, “Over the past few years, you have faced endless legal harassment and spiritual attacks for merely upholding the Gospel’s teachings. These prosecutions are not only unjust but are direct assaults on sacred fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even freedom of thought.”

“Freedom of religion and thought are deeply embedded in what it means to be an American,” the congressman elaborated in comments to The Washington Stand. “The ongoing legal harassment of Päivi Räsänen should be greatly concerning to all Americans, especially as this type of religious discrimination has begun to threaten our own people. We must stand with and pray for Päivi — what succeeds in Finland will inevitably try to take root here.”

Family Research Council President and former Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Tony Perkins joined Roy in extolling Räsänen’s courage and condemning the prosecutions against her. Perkins told TWS, “The Finnish prosecution of Päivi once again shows that evil never stands still, nor is its hostility to truth ever satisfied. Its only deterrent is courageous Christians like Päivi.”

Räsänen submitted her defense before the Finnish Supreme Court on Tuesday. In 2019, Räsänen publicly questioned the Finnish Lutheran church’s sponsorship of an LGBT Pride event, citing scripture in defense of marriage as between one man and one woman. Police began investigating the sitting parliamentarian, including scrutinizing a pamphlet she had written clarifying and promoting a biblical understanding of marriage, which was published by Dr. Juhana Pohjola, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. Pohjola faces trial alongside Räsänen.

Both Räsänen and Pohjola were criminally charged in 2022 under a Finnish law prohibiting “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Both Helsinki’s District Court and, later, the Court of Appeals for Helsinki acquitted the defendants, resulting in prosecutors appealing the case to Finland’s Supreme Court. The District Court initially found that while there may be objections to the biblical worldview expressed by Räsänen and Pohjola, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression,” further adding that the court has no jurisdiction to “interpret biblical concepts.”

Both Perkins and Roy have been active in supporting Räsänen over the course of her trials, urging USCIRF to consider adding nations to the State Department’s Special Watch List on the basis of legal persecutions launched against Christians. “As Christians, we know evil has attacked and harassed Christianity since it stoned Stephen in the shadow of the cross,” the two wrote last year. “Finland’s disgraceful treatment of P?"ivi Räsänen should be a stirring call to prayer for Christians globally, and even in the U.S., as we see the tide of hostility and persecution rising again.”

“What succeeds now in Finland will inevitably arrive on our own shores,” Perkins and Roy warned. “If the Bible is indeed labeled as hate speech, or even banned, the freedoms we hold so dearly in this country will be severely tested. First Amendment freedoms are the natural inalienable rights of all men and must be vigilantly protected in the United States and abroad.”

Paul Coleman, executive director of Alliance Defending Freedom International, which is representing Räsänen, described the prosecution of the parliamentarian as “a watershed case in the story of Europe’s creeping censorship.” Coleman explained, “In a democratic Western nation in 2024, nobody should be on trial for their faith, yet throughout the prosecution of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, we have seen something akin to a ‘heresy’ trial, where Christians are dragged through court for holding beliefs that differ from the approved orthodoxy of the day.” Coleman continued, “The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution after almost five long years, despite such clear and unanimous rulings from the lower courts is alarming. The process is the punishment in such instances, resulting in a chill on free speech for all citizens observing.”

Räsänen herself declared, “At the heart of the trial is the question of whether teachings linked to the Bible can be displayed and agreed with. I consider it a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression, which is a core right in a democratic state.” She added, “An acquittal by the Supreme Court would serve as a stronger precedent than lower court rulings for subsequent similar charges. It would provide a clearer and stronger safeguard for the freedom of Christians to present the teachings of the Bible — and it would strengthen the principle of freedom of expression in general.”

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.