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This prosecutor targeting Christians, putting Bible on trial, again

Two people of faith head back to court on Aug. 31 to stand trial for simply being Christians. All who value Western Civilization should be gravely concerned.

Last March, people of faith around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Päivi Räsänen, a well-respected member of Finland’s Parliament, was found "not guilty" by a Helsinki court in a case of legal persecution of her and Bishop Juhana Pohjola for their Christian beliefs about marriage. 

It seemed, then, that the nightmare was over; it was not.

Now, Räsänen and Pohjola head back to court, Bibles in hand, on Aug. 31 to stand trial once again for simply being Christians. Everyone who values the perseverance and preservation of Western Civilization should be gravely concerned by this trial. 

For more than four years, Räsänen has been investigated by a rogue Finnish prosecutor’s office for the "war crime" of "agitation against a population group" for criticizing her own church for sponsoring a gay pride parade and writing a pamphlet supporting a biblical view of marriage 20 years ago. The prosecution levied an additional charge against Juhana Pohjola, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, for merely hosting Räsänen’s pamphlet on his church’s website. 

FINNISH CHRISTIAN OFFICIALS FACE CHARGES FOR LGBT CRITICISMS AS BIDEN ADMIN ASKED TO STEP IN

She faces criminal charges over a single tweet – not one inciting violence, but sharing a Bible verse. And this isn’t in North Korea or Communist China, it is in a so-called "free" country. 

It is readily apparent to all people of good faith that the trial’s intent was not to bring about justice by prosecuting Räsänen or Pohjola for the so-called "war crime" of "agitation against a population group." In fact, the prosecution had to search far and wide to find a single Finn even offended by the tweet or the pamphlet. 

No, this case features a deeper acidic agenda: to fundamentally undermine the foundations of modern Western Civilization, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. 

In court, the prosecution did not focus their case on the grandmother of ten or the bishop almost at all, but rather, put the Bible itself at the forefront of its legal attacks. 

The prosecution quoted Old Testament Bible verses, asking questions about basic Christian theology, and even dismissing the notion that there could be any distinction between "sin" and the "sinner." These questions were appropriate for an introduction to theology course or a seminary lecture – but not a courtroom in a supposedly free country that purports to respect the religious rights of its citizens. 

Reflecting on the first trial, Räsänen stated, "Under oath, the prosecutor grilled me in court on my religious beliefs and basic theology." 

The Bible was on trial.

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Eventually, the three-judge panel found the defendants not guilty in a unanimous decision and ordered Finland to pay more than 60,000 euros in legal costs to the Christians. The judges openly questioned the very reasoning behind the prosecution’s case, stating, "It is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts." 

Across Finland and the world, people of faith felt instant relief. However, that relief would last just weeks. 

Unsatisfied with its resounding defeat, the prosecution upped its harassment of Räsänen and Pohjola. They appealed the decision – on the mere grounds that the prosecution disagreed with the outcome. 

But it underscores the point – the process is the punishment.

Ahead of the re-trial, Räsänen remains steadfast and confident that justice will prevail. Her words are inspiring: 

"I believe free speech is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. I will keep fighting for this right however long the prosecution continues its campaign to silence peaceful beliefs." 

WAR ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: WE MUST STAND UP FOR FINNISH CHRISTIANS FACING TRIAL FOR THEIR FAITH

Unfortunately, this pattern is all too familiar to Americans, as government officials have misused state law to coerce people they disagree with. In recent memory, Americans have watched a website designer, cake artist and many other artists threatened with punishment for expressing what they believed. They have faced court after court for years seeking the freedom to say what they believe without fear of government punishment – proving the process is often the punishment.

Across the world, the message these aggressive prosecutions want to send is clear – you must conform to the prevailing dogma of the day. 

Don’t believe us? Take it from the Finnish prosecutor who has claimed the Bible’s teachings on human sexuality "incite hatred" and compared the Bible to "Mein Kampf."

The harassment of Räsänen and Pohjola is designed not simply to punish them, but to cudgel into silence them and anyone who agrees with them. To chill their thoughts, expressions, faith and their freedoms. 

The implicit deal being offered is censor yourself or face fines or possibly even jail time. A deal we too may soon be offered.

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The goal is clear: to make the cost of standing firm on a clean conscience so great that most people will simply give in and soil their conscience rather than face the social and legal fallout of holding to the truth. This anti-Christian agenda berates the average person - you will be silent or face the consequences. You may no longer live free but must live their lie.

Put simply, the Bible is on trial, as it has been in countless places and countless times throughout its history. The delusion that it could not happen again in a modern and allegedly free country has been smashed. 

As the next court date approaches, it is once again time to join in fervent prayer for Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola.

Now, the consequences of this trial will reverberate throughout the world. Bishop Pohjola puts it best, "The Gospel of Christ is at stake." 

To Päivi and the bishop, we stand with you. We stand for freedom. We stand with the Gospel.

Sean Nelson is Legal Counsel for Global Religious Freedom at ADF International, the legal advocacy organization supporting the legal defense of MP Päivi Räsänen.

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