Various legal scholars and professionals have asked the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to intervene in persuading Finland's prosecutor general to drop his attempt to put a Christian lawmaker on trial for sharing her biblical ideas on sexuality and marriage.
Both Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola are facing criminal charges in connection with Rasanen's Christian beliefs on marriage. If found guilty of three charges of "ethnic agitation," the mother of five may face up to six years in jail, reports Christian Post.
The allegations originate from a 2004 publication in which she termed homosexual behavior "sinful" and endorsed same-sex marriage as a biblical imperative. Räsänen is convinced that her statements are "legal and should not be censored."
The bishop-elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, on the other hand, has been charged with publishing Rä'sänen's opinions on the topic.
In a letter signed by professors from Princeton, Harvard, Yale and other universities to the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom, law professors warn that the prosecution might require "Finland's clergy and lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths."
"The Prosecutor General's pursuit of these charges sends an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station," the letter states.
The professors have volunteered to serve on a federally required committee on religious liberty, whose role is to help the United States devise better policies on religious freedom. The letter argues that the "no statue of limitations on human rights violations of this magnitude."
"The prosecutions are straightforward acts of oppression," wrote the professors. They contend that the prosecutions "constitute serious human rights abuses," and that they demand that Finland's Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen face penalties under the Global Magnitsky Act.
The letter closes by saying: "Should calls by USCIRF to designate and sanction Prosecutor General Toiviainen and her accomplices fall on deaf ears, we respectfully request that USCIRF not simply let the matter drop. We ask you to continue to press our government to use its legal powers and fulfill its duties under U.S. law to aid victims of human rights violations, including Dr. Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. We further ask USCIRF to take account of the violation of human rights by the Finnish Prosecutor General in its assessment of the state of religious freedom in nations around the globe in its Annual Report."
Princeton University law professor Robert P. George, Harvard University's Learned Hand Professor of Law Emerita Mary Ann Glendon, and Harvard constitutional law professor Adrian Vermeule are among those who have signed the letter.
In a March statement, Räsänen stated that she did not "threaten, slander, or insult anyone," but simply stated what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality. She made a solemn pledge to stand up for her right to "confess" her faith "so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech."
"The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets," she said.
The European Evangelical Alliance has come out in favor of Räsänen, questioning if the prosecution is "attempting to redefine human rights law."