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Pori Jazz festival boss compares curing homosexuality to drug addiction rehab

The newly-appointed CEO of the Pori Jazz festival raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he was asked about his previous support for 'curing' homosexuality.

Mies hymyilee ja pitää kädessään Pori Jazz -kahvikuppia.
Aki Ruotsala, the newly-appointed CEO of the Pori Jazz festival. Image: Jari Pelkonen / Yle

The Pori Jazz music festival's newly-appointed CEO Aki Ruotsala came under fire on Wednesday when he was asked about his views on homosexuality. The Christian Democrat politician was appointed to lead the festival on Monday, prompting local media to examine his previous statements.

In 2011 Christian groups ran the 'Älä alistu' ('don't back down') campaign, which suggested that homosexuality could be cured. Ruotsala was chair of the Christian Democratic Party's youth wing at the time, and he publicly defended those ideas.

In an interview with Satakunnan Kansa on Wednesday, Ruotsala reiterated his views that homosexuality can be cured, comparing sexual orientation to drug addiction. He also suggested that he believes there is no such thing as homosexuals, only homosexuality.

In a column in the paper, marketing expert Altti Papinsaari said Ruotsalo's views could damage the image of Pori.

"These days you can't represent an extreme conservative orientation, where you question and even denigrate sexual minorities," said Papinsaari.

Pori Jazz is an annual week-long music festival held each July in the west coast city of Pori, attracting more than 100,000 people every year. This year's event will be headlined by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Alanis Morissette, James Blunt and Burt Bacharach.

The event's main commercial partners are Radio Aalto, the Ilta-Sanomat tabloid and Somersby cider.

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