Category Archives: Religious Persecution

How A Trial In Finland Could Have Worldwide Effects On Persecution

The trial of two Finnish Christians for publicly stating mainstream religious teachings that reserve sex only for heterosexual marriage is heading towards a judgment scheduled for March 30. The case could end up hitting Finland’s Supreme Court and even the European Court of Human Rights, which means its outcome could affect the rights of religious believers and political dissidents across the world.

Member of Parliament Paivi Rasanen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola have been prosecuted now for nearly three years after Rasanen tweeted a picture of Bible verses in June 2019. Complaints about this tweet led to her prosecution under Finland’s “hate crimes” laws.

The government investigation of Rasanen’s tweet uncovered a theological pamphlet she wrote and Pojhola published in 2004, for which they have both been charged. The booklet states classic Christian teachings about sex as reserved only for marriage, and defining marriage as comprising only one man and one woman for life.

“The teachings concerning marriage and sexuality in the Bible arise from love to one’s neighbor,” Rasanen said in a Feb. 17 statement. “This case is about whether it is allowed in Finland to cite the Bible and to agree with it in topics that go against the tide and challenge the current ethos and thinking.”

Oral arguments in the case wrapped up this week on Valentine’s Day. On Feb. 17, a Finnish court also heard a related request from the prosecutor to force a Finnish radio show to take offline a two-minute audio clip of Rasanen speaking about marriage in 2019.

“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,” Rasanen told The Federalist.

Prosecutor Seeks to Ban Christian Speech, Including From Pastors

On Feb. 14, Pojhola’s lawyer Jyrki Anttinen argued “if the prosecution wins, the ability of pastors to preach the gospel is effectively over in Finland — without criminal sanction,” said Lorcan Price, a lawyer assisting the case for Alliance Defending Freedom International who attended the Helsinki hearing. An Irishman, Price listened with the aid of a Finnish translator.

The Finnish prosecutor who brought the case is seeking a fine of one-third of Rasanen’s annual income, the public erasure of documents and audio she’s made on the subject, and a financial penalty against the small religious organization Pohjola runs, the Luther Foundation. If the two Christians are convicted, the steepest possible penalty could be two years in prison.

“I’ve been to his headquarters, the Mission Diocese of the Lutheran Evangelical Church,” Price noted. “It’s fairly utilitarian. It’s not luxurious — there’s no marble foyer with a fountain and receptionist. There’s a kitchen and a communal area and Bishop Juhana’s office.”

“They’re a breakaway from the main Lutheran church,” Price continued. In fact, Pohjola was expelled from the state church in 2014, also for affirming classic Christian theology about differences between the two sexes. He was elected bishop by his growing missionary congregations last year. “The main church abandoned the teachings but got to keep all of the buildings. That’s what we have here. He’s in fairly basic accommodation, let’s say. I think anything of their income is outrageous.”

Attempt to Expand Government Censorship

It’s not clear Finland’s hate crimes law even bans controversial speech, but Finland’s top prosecutor is arguing that it does. If the prosecutor wins the case, it would mark an unprecedented expansion of identity laws that exist in most European countries, many U.S. cities and states, and that U.S. Democrats are trying to make a nationwide law in The Equality Act.

“The prosecutor believes the law means you can’t preach the gospel in public, but some believe it means you can’t directly incite violence,” Price noted.

The charges against the two Christians include an attempt to criminalize statements they made years before the law being used to prosecute them passed. That’s the only charge against Pohjola, and one of three charges against Rasanen.

“The fact that Bishop Juhana is even in this trial is Kafkaesque, it’s insane,” Price said. “He’s being charged with something he did as the head of a charitable foundation, the Luther Foundation, that publishes theological documents, for a document he didn’t write that expresses mainstream, orthodox Christian teaching… Finding that Bishop Juhana as a publisher broke the law would damage the rights of publishers to publish things that are controversial and as a church leader [would] damage his ability to publish and evangelize and disseminate in public Christian teaching.”

The Federalist interviewed Pohjola in person in November, and Rasanen via Zoom last week. As their case concluded arguments this week, U.S. members of Congress reiterated their public concerns about its implications for human rights both worldwide and in the United States.

It’s likely their case won’t be over even after the court decision likely out at the end of March, said Price. That’s because both parties are likely to appeal if they lose.

If the court convicts Rasanen or Pohjola, or both, their lawyers will “definitely” appeal, Price said. The Finnish prosecutor also seems likely to appeal if the two Christians are not convicted, as she has appealed similar cases attempting to criminalize politically incorrect views, he said.

The Finnish legal system allows prosecutors to appeal if they don’t win a conviction in their first round at court. In common law countries like England and the United States, usually only those convicted of crimes can appeal, not their prosecutors, except under unusual circumstances, Price said.

“I think that’s very burdensome for those accused,” he noted. “So you can go through multiple levels of the court and be vindicated at each level and the prosecutor can keep dragging the accused through the courts.”

All this means Rasanen and Pohjola’s cases could very well end up in Finland’s Supreme Court, where if they lose they could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, from where Price spoke to The Federalist by Zoom on Tuesday. That means their case could affect how all of Europe treats Christian doctrines and free speech more broadly.

Like the United States, Europe has been increasingly restricting political and religious speech, especially in international courts against countries seen as unfashionably conservative, such as Hungary and Poland, Price said. This case therefore comes at a crucial time as speech rights are receiving less government support than has been long standard in the West.

Silencing Attempt Backfires

Before this case, Rasanen and Pohjola’s theological booklet was printed years ago in a few hundred copies and mostly used within tiny Lutheran churches. Their prosecution has caused it to be distributed around the world and translated into several other languages, Price said.

“This obscure little pamphlet has made its way around the world thanks to the efforts of the prosecutor to shut it down,” he noted.

Being targeted for their faith has given Rasanen and Pohjola a global platform for preaching the Christian message of forgiveness for all sins and the deep importance to Christians of the Bible as the very Word of God. Rasanen told The Federalist that because of her case, European media are quoting Bible verses and people are debating their meaning. She says she’s received emails from people saying her case has prompted them to start reading the Bible, which the pastor’s wife and grandmother of nine says she’s read repeatedly since age 16.

Rasanen spoke to the huge worldwide audience of Fox News this week about her case. Political and religious leaders around the world have also expressed support for Rasanen and Pohjola’s rights to free speech and religious exercise, which are legally recognized in European human rights agreements.

“Many people and journalists around the world regularly ask me: ‘What keeps you going, from where do you find the courage to speak up?’” Rasanen told The Federalist. “My motivation comes from the Bible and from my will to have an impact on the society. A conviction based on the Christian faith is more than a [superficial] opinion. The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a court room? I believe it is my calling and honor to defend the foundational rights and freedoms at this point of my life.”

While some people have been scared into silence about their beliefs because of this prosecution, Rasanen said, it’s also prompted 1,000 Finns to stand in front of Parliament holding their Bibles up to “collectively show strong support for the freedom of God’s Word.” The Finnish Association for Freedom of Speech and Religion was also founded last June to support the legal defense for this case and possibly others.

“In one sense the prosecutor has frightened part of the population into being quiet and in another it has drawn huge attention to the issue,” Price said. “We can’t underestimate the chilling effect of these prosecutions. She [the prosecutor] cannot but regard this as at least a partial success that sending a tweet about the Bible could result in the police coming to your door. Not everyone has the grit and determination of Paivi.

“That’s our concern with these hate speech laws. It denudes society of the opportunity to hear something that can be shocking and provocative but is also a different perspective and for Christians founded on a fundamental truth of scripture.”


https://thefederalist.com/2022/02/18/how-a-trial-in-finland-could-have-worldwide-effects-on-government-persecution-of-religion/

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19 Federal Agencies Spying on Americans With Religious Exemptions

One more reason why I voted against Mr Biden in 2020. mrossol

By World Net Daily 9 hours ago

There now are at least 19 federal departments or agencies that have – or are trying to get – procedures so they can keep lists of people who seek or are granted “religious” exemptions to various COVID-19 mandates.

The details come in a Daily Signal column by Sarah Parshall Parry and GianCarlo Canaparo.

Earlier, they explained when they first found an agency trying to spy on Americans, the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.

Its policy, that first report said, “will likely serve as a model for a whole-of-government push to assemble lists of Americans who object on religious grounds to a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Now a new report explains, “A little digging at the Federal Register revealed that there are at least 19 total federal agencies—including five cabinet level agencies—that have created or proposed to create these tracking lists for religious-exemption requests from their employees.”

Included are the Departments of Transportation, Justice, Health and Treasury.

“As the nation’s largest employer, with over four million civilian and military employees, the federal government has received tens of thousands of religious exemption requests. It now appears that an increasing number of federal agencies are keeping and preserving those individuals’ names, religious information, personally identifying information, and other data stored in lists across multiple government agencies,” they reported.

The authors explained, “The earliest set of proposals appears to have been rolled out in October of last year, during the start of the holiday season in a possible effort to ensure very little attention was paid to a coordinated data collection move. Many of the announcements have clocked only a few page views. Almost none attracted any public comments. Most permitted only a 30-day window for submitting objections. All announcements were issued within a few weeks of one another.”

The column said the “disturbing trend” is that “the Biden administration is creating lists that can all communicate with one another on which individuals have sought religious exemptions from the federal employee vaccine mandate or other religious accommodations within the scope of their employment by the government.”

Among the details being assembled, they report, are “religious affiliation, the reasons and support given for religious accommodation requests, names, contact information, date of birth, aliases, home address, contact information, and other identifying information.”

It was Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt who raised objections, telling Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, “On November 18, at the direction of the Biden administration, four federal agencies simultaneously announced that those who exercise their legal right to seek a health or religious waiver from a vaccine mandate would be tracked in federal databases. Rather than give the public ample time to weigh in on the advisability or legality of collecting such personal information, the Department of Transportation’s database in particular became effective on the day it was published…”

He explained what’s alarming is the chilling effect on Americans’ exercise of their religion.

When the authors reported on the D.C. operation, officials there claimed listing those people would help it “in the collecting, storing, dissemination, and disposal of employee religious exemption request information collected and maintained by the agency.”

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How will Muslim Nominee Protect Other Faiths?

Christianity Daily  11/21/2021

A Colorado-based group promoting religious freedom asked President Joe Biden’s Muslim nominee, Rashad Hussain, how will he and the administration protect other faiths and their rights.

WND said JihadWatch, through its director Robert Spencer, highlighted the 7-page open letter sent by Save The Persecuted Christians Coalition to Hussain questionimg his capacity to be truthful to his role as an “Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom” even to other religions, especially those being persecuted by Muslims.

The coalition is comprised of 124 American Christians and Jews that aims “to engage public officials and spread news of persecution” at the grassroots.

“He is, by all accounts, a devout Muslim. As Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, will he speak out and act for the religious freedom of non-Muslims in Shariah states who are discriminated against according to Shariah provisions? The establishment media will never ask him. So Save the Persecuted Christians has done so,” Spencer said.

The open letter pointed out some unaddressed areas on Hussain’s nomination to the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. The coalition raised the said areas out of its desire that clarity be made on the matter prior to Hussain receiving the United States Senate’s vote on his nomination.

Save The Persecuted Christians’ letter pointed out that one of the areas that were not addressed was Hussain’s beliefs on “certain tenets of Islamic Law.” One of the said tenets pertain to Islam having a “supremacist position” over other religions. This tenet compels Muslims adherance to the treatment of “infidels” or those who are non-Muslims as “inferior” to them such that they have limited rights and are subject to “severe punishment.”

Another tenet involves considering converts as “apostates” subject to death penalty. While another considers Muslims with a different interpretation of Islam as “apostates” who are similarly subjected to the same punishment as converts.

“As a committed Muslim, in the execution of your office as AAL, will you be able to consider members of all faiths or of no faith equally worthy of U.S. protection from persecution by state and non-state actors?” Save The Persecuted Christians said.

“In light of differences in the understanding of personal rights and freedoms under Sharia rules versus those protected under international laws concerning human rights and religious freedom, what standard would you advocate for when issues arise affecting the freedom of non-Muslims to practice their faith–especially in Muslim-majority nations–if confirmed as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom?” they added.

The letter also sought clarity in 17 other areas on Hussein’s history, ideologies, and statements, such as using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as his guide in implementing his role. The coalition said that this differs significantly” from the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights that was used by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to which Hussein was appointed to by former President Barack Obama as a Special Envoy.

The difference lies in the “legal and practical implications of its caveat that all human rights are to be observed only to the extent they are consistent with Sharia,” which is the Arabic name for the Islamic Law.

The coalition particularly cited that as OIC Special Envoy, Hussein was one of those who promoted a false narrative that a jihadist attack in Benghazi was “spontaneous” instead of it being “murderous and pre-planned.” The said attack actually led to the death of a U.S. Ambassador to Lydia among others. The coalition asked Hussein if he still holds the same position today.

The group also cited several instances that Hussein acted against justice by defending Muslims even though it was not the truth such as silencing those who spoke against persecution done by Islamic groups as “Islamophobic” during his stint as OIC Special Envoy.

https://www.christianitydaily.com/articles/13874/20211109/group-promoting-religious-freedom-asks-biden-administration-how-muslim-nominee-will-protect-other-faiths.htm

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Christians: Stop being passive

Christians: Stop being passive

It will be interesting to see if enough “people of faith” can common ground in a way and push back ‘civilly’ in a unified manner. mrossol

American Faith, By Jon Fleetwood, 11/20/2021

A national survey conducted by McLaughlin & Associates-Summit.org found 75% of Americans believe the government does not have the right to force people to participate in practices that violate their religious beliefs. Sixty percent say that religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine should be protected. Only 27% disagreed.

Americans of all political parties and religious beliefs are increasingly concerned that the government is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine religious liberty. From forcing churches to remain closed while casinos reopened, to threatening the jobs of those objecting to the COVID-19 shot, people of faith no longer have the luxury of remaining passive.

Religious liberty is the first freedom protected in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. It is a freedom nearly all Americans hold dear. Yet the Biden administration seems out of touch. How many Blue states will turn Red before the administration realizes that Americans’ concerns over COVID-19 do not trump their love of freedom and the rule of law?

Consider this example. In September, just days after Biden’s mandate announcement, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy promised the federal government would “monitor” religious exemption claims. If you are looking for scientific proof that the small number of people claiming religious exemptions are a danger to the public, you’ll almost certainly come up empty-handed. The Biden mandate seems more like a cynical power play than a medical imperative.

During the Clinton administration, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by a nearly unanimous vote. President Clinton signed it into law. RFRA states that the government must prove that any action or regulation they pursue does not place an undue burden on Americans’ practice of their religion. Yet the Biden administration’s overarching mandate makes little sense given less burdensome alternatives such as assessments of natural immunity and regular COVID-19 testing.

American people of faith are now in the unfamiliar position of having to stand against their own government to uphold their basic liberties. Many Christians are uncomfortable with this. Some say that biblical passages such as Romans 13 insist that we do whatever our government demands.

But our government authority is not the Roman Empire or a Caesar. It is the Constitution and our representative republic. As Abraham Lincoln famously stated, the United States is government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Bureaucrats are not the government, weare.

In this country, if you want to obey the governmental authorities as the Bible says, you must be an involved citizen.

Christian involvement with government isn’t just an American imperative, however. A millennium and a half ago Augustine of Hippo argued that citizens of the kingdom of Heaven are the best citizens in the kingdoms of humanity because they have an allegiance to a truth that is higher than the state. Government is not God.

During World War II, Corrie ten Boom’s faith inspired her defiance of Nazi rule as she smuggled Jews to safety. And Martin Luther King Jr.’s appeal to God’s authority as the moral foundation for the civil rights movement cemented his legacy despite laws mandating segregation based on race.

Pushing back against government overreach sometimes requires civil disobedience. This is to be sharply distinguished from un-civil disobedience such as rioting.

In the McLaughlin/Summit.org poll, 57% of Americans who expressed an opinion said that civil disobedience is an appropriate response when the government oversteps its legal authority or engages in immoral behavior against its citizens.

Peaceful but firm resistance does carry a cost. People of faith have often faced persecution for simply putting their faith ahead of government mandates. The Apostle Paul himself insisted on obeying God rather than man and shared openly about suffering at the hands of Jewish and Roman authorities for proclaiming the Gospel.

Instead of retreating from the public sphere, Christians have an obligation to engage, especially when guaranteed rights are threatened by unjust overreach.

The McLaughlin/Summit.org poll shows that Americans are seriously concerned about such overreach. Some 73% percent of those who expressed an opinion believe that “our rights are given to us by our Creator and not by the government.” But will they follow through when that belief costs them something?

Regardless of our personal views on vaccines, Christians are obligated to stand up for constitutional freedoms such as religious liberty, and to find ways to support those who are harmed by standing firm for their religious beliefs.

A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have. People of faith are a bulwark against those who insist on swearing allegiance to the government rather than to God.

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