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US pastor plans pro-Räsänen demonstration at Finnish Embassy

Conservative groups in the US and elsewhere have criticised Finnish prosecutors for charging Christian Democrats MP Päivi Räsänen with hate speech.

Päivi Räsänen
Päivi Räsänen is a former interior minister and Christian Democrats chair. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle
Wif Stenger,
Yle News

The Finnish Prosecutor General's decision to charge Christian Democrats MP Päivi Räsänen with incitement over her comments on homosexuality has stirred support among conservative religious circles in the United States and elsewhere.

In Virginia, a conservative Lutheran pastor has planned a demonstration on Saturday outside the Finnish Embassy in Washington in support of Räsänen.

According to the embassy's press counsellor, Pasi Rajala, the demonstration has been properly registered with local authorities in Washington.

"We have been duly informed, and expect it to be relatively small and very civil in any case. So we have absolutely no problem with the demonstration," he told Yle News.

"As government officials, we have nothing to say about the indictment and the process itself. That is 100 percent in the hands of the prosecutor and other judicial bodies," Rajala added.

As of Friday, only 10 people had indicated via Facebook that they intended to take part in the event. It was organised by Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Di Mauro, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, in Warrenton, VA, 80 km west of the capital. It is scheduled to begin at 1pm local time, featuring several speakers including Lutheran pastors.

On Wednesday, Rev. Dr. Dan Selbo, Bishop of the North American Lutheran Church, sent a letter to Finnish Ambassador Mikko Hautala stating his "full support" for the planned 31 July protest and asking that the Finnish government – which is not involved in the case – drop all charges against Räsänen and a co-defendant.

The NALC is a relatively small group formed in 2010 by conservatives concerned by other Lutheran groups' views on homosexuality and other issues.

Professors and legal group back Räsänen

In June, a group of US professors wrote to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) demanding sanctions against Finland's Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen. Last weekend the daily Helsingin Sanomat reported that ADF International, a US-based conservative Christian legal aid group, had taken up Räsänen's case.

Räsänen, 61, has been an MP since 1995. She led the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015, serving as interior minister for the last four years of her term.

On Thursday, Räsänen said asked had the Helsinki District Court not to consider charges related to her controversial Bible tweet. She argued that they were in violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which enshrines the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

According to Statistics Finland, as of the end of last year some 68 percent of the country's residents were members of the state-supported Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. That was down from 85 percent at the turn of the millennium.

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