A bishop and a Christian member of the parliament in Finland are scheduled to be on trial on January 24 for allegedly discriminating members of the LGBTQ through their biblical stand on marriage and sexuality.

Faithwire reported 69-year-old Rev. Dr. Bishop Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, is "gripped by fear" as the trial nears. Pohjola explained to Christianity Today that his fear is not for himself but for other Christians.

"I do not so much fear the outcome of the court case, but the strong signal it gives to many: to be silent. I fear self-censorship and intimidation," Pohjola said.

Pohjola stressed that same-sex acts are sinful and untruthful as the Bible says. But he clarified he is against the act and not the person committing such acts because he believes in the "God-given dignity, value and human rights of those who identify themselves as homosexuals."

Previously, Pohjola said in a statement at the International Lutheran Council website that the issue now isn't really about religious freedom but the truth of the Gospel, which he is ordained to preach.

"God, creation, the fall, atonement, and the Christian way of life have all been the teaching of the Church throughout the ages. As a Lutheran bishop, it is my calling and duty to hold on to this truth and publicly teach it no matter what the cost is-not because we want to wage a cultural war in society but because we want to call people to repentance, that through faith in Christ they may receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. This is not primarily a legal issue; the Gospel of Christ is at stake!" Pohjola emphasized.

Christianity Daily reported in June that Pohjola was made part of the criminal charges filed against Finnish politician Päivi Räsänen for publishing the latter's 2004 pamphlet, "Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity."

Räsänen was accused of using "hate speech" for three instances. One was for stating in the book that homosexual behavior is "sinful" and opposed same-sex marriage. Räsänen is said to have two other charges of the same nature for making the same statements in a 2019 tweet and during a talk show.

Pohjola, who was consecrated as bishop last August 2021, was involved in the charges for being the Editor-In-Chief and Dean of the Luther Foundation that is in-charge of the pamphlet's distribution. Finland's Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen filed the charge against him and Räsänen for committing the "offense of incitement" against a minority group out of writing something "degrading and discriminatory against homosexuals."

Accordingly, the pamphlet has been distributed to church members since 2004 as part of a catechetical series "but drew little attention" and was then uploaded to the foundation's website. It has been in the website for fifteen years before a Finnish theologian complained in 2019 to the police about it. The police dismissed the complaint since the booklet was protected by Finland's law on freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Despite this, Toiviainen went ahead in filing the charges that, when convicted, penalizes both Räsänen and Pohjola with "thousands of dollars in fines or even up to two years in prison." Räsänen was surprised at being charged of "hate speech" when all she did was testify to her Christian faith. Räsänen told Christianity Today that she defamed no one by doing so.

"Being criminally charged for voicing my deeply held beliefs in a country that has such deep roots in freedom of speech and religion feels unreal. I do not see I would have in any way defamed homosexuals whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend," Räsänen said.

In line with the charges, a group of professionals and legal scholars have ased the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to persuade Toiviainen to reconsider pushing through with the trial.

The group alleged that the prosecutor general is violating free speech and religious freedom while sending "an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station," which is "to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths." The group also asked that Toiviainen be sanctioned for his actions against Pohjola and Räsänen, which they regard as human rights violations.

Six United States House Republicans led by Texas Representative Chip Roy seconded the efforts of the group of legal scholars by similarly sending a letter to the USCIRF in November wherein they requested Finland to be added to the Special Watch List of the said agency. The congressmen alleged that the Finnish government failed to protect Pohjola and Räsänen's rights to religious liberty, calling it an "infringements on religious freedom."