- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2021

Ten academics and human rights advocates, including a former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, called on the Biden administration Friday to sanction Finland’s top prosecutor after she filed charges against Christians who declared what they believe the Bible says about homosexuality.

Finnish Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen has committed “serious human rights abuses” by filing criminal charges against Päivi Räsänen, a former interior minister and current member of Parliament, and the Rev. Juhana Pohjola, bishop-elect of Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese, the open letter from the group says.

The letter calls on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to seek federal sanctions on Ms. Toiviainen, including denial of entry to the United States by Secretary of State Antony Blinken under Section 7031(c), and for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to impose financial sanctions on Ms. Toiviainen under the Global Magnitsky Act, which can impose penalties for “serious” human rights abuses.

Ms. Räsänen and Rev. Pohjola, along with Luther Foundation in Finland board member Juhana Pohjola, are accused of “incitement against ethnic groups” over Ms. Räsänen’s authorship of a booklet in 2004 titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity.” The Rev. Pohjola and the Luther Foundation are charged as publishers of the pamphlet.

“In her writing, Räsänen has expressed opinions and information that are degrading to homosexuals,” Ms. Toiviainen said in a news release.

The open letter, published at the RealClear Politics website, says the prosecutions send “an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station: no one who holds to the traditional teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several other religions on questions of marriage and sexual morality will be safe from state harassment should they, like Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, express their moral and religious convictions.”

The letter cites earlier U.S. sanctions such as a December 2020 action against Chief Huang Yuanxiong of the Xiamen Public Security Bureau Wucun Police Station in China for abusing human rights in persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. 

The authors said, “Prosecutor General Toiviainen’s status as a European official must not shield her from sanctions for her abuse of traditionalist Christians in Finland.”

Peter Berkowitz, who served as director of policy planning at the State Department in 2019 and 2020 and who organized the open letter, which was also signed by Middlebury College political science professor Keegan Callanan; Carlos Eire, a religious studies professor at Yale University; former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon; Jacqueline C. Rivers, executive director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies; David Rivkin, a partner at  Baker & Hostetler LLP; and Adrian Vermeule, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University.

Three Princeton University professors signed the document: politics professor John B. Londregan; mathematics professor Sergiu Klainerman; and Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. Mr. George served on the religious freedom panel from 2012 to 2016, and in 2013 was chairman of the commission.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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