Freedom of Religion on Trial in Finland

Will Finland bow down to the gods of fashion?

William Kilpatrick is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.  His books include Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West (Ignatius Press), What Catholics Need to Know About Islam (Sophia Press), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad.

Päivi Räsänen is a member of the Finnish Parliament, a former minister of the interior, a public speaker and the mother of five grown children.

She faces a heavy fine and two years in prison for quoting the Bible.  In response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s affiliation with the Helsinki LGBT Pride event, she posted the Bible passage from Romans 1: 24-27 which condemns homosexual behavior.

Finnish prosecutors stated that the use of the word “sin” could be harmful, and alleged that Ms. Räsänen’s comments were made to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred toward homosexuals.

But couldn’t the prosecutor’s remarks cause intolerance, contempt and hatred toward Ms. Räsänen?  If criticizing another person’s beliefs or behavior is a hate crime, then isn’t she the victim of a hate crime?

The court prosecutors worried that the word “sin” could be harmful.  One supposes they mean harmful to one’s self-esteem.  And, indeed, the list of sins in Romans 1: 24-32 is meant to make you feel bad about yourself.  From a Biblical perspective, acknowledgment of sin, followed by repentance, leads on to salvation.  In other words, feeling bad about your behavior is, in some cases, a good thing.  It’s not only homosexual behavior that is condemned in Romans I.  The extended passage condemns all manner of sins including idolatry, deceitfulness, envy, gossip, slander, and disobedience to parents.

From one point of view this is highly offensive and insulting to those disposed to deceitfulness and slander.  From another point of view, it can be looked upon as highly therapeutic—a moment of self-recognition that leads on to change.

Prosecutors should have no difficulty understanding the concept.  After all, they apply painful therapeutics as a matter of course.  They hope that a heavy fine or a dose of prison will force the criminal to recognize his crimes and put himself on the road to rehabilitation.

Increasingly, however, prosecutors are prosecuting “thought crimes” rather than real crimes, and courts are using hurt feelings as a criterion for making decisions.  Take the case of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, an Austrian woman who was found guilty of “inciting hatred” by an Austrian Court because of her assertion that the prophet Muhammad was a pedophile.  In 2018, the ruling was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights which held that her right to freedom of expression was outweighed by “the right of others to have their religious feelings protected.” In short, feelings trumped facts, and the alleged pain caused to Muslims by the “slander” of their prophet became the deciding factor.

 Interestingly, the case of Päivi Räsänen also involves “religious feelings”—her feeling or, rather, her conviction that Lutherans should be guided by the words of St. Paul rather than by the fashions of the day.

But although the feelings of Muslims still count for quite a bit in Europe, it seems likely that the Christian “feelings” of Ms. Räsänen will count for very little against the supposedly great pain homosexuals feel when they read the words of St. Paul in Romans.  The Finns will probably be hearing a great deal in the near future about the harm that Christianity causes to homosexuals, transgenders and other favored sexual minorities.

So, just as Muslims must be protected from Islamophobia, homosexuals must be protected from homophobia.  Whether or not the free speech rights of Christians get trampled in the process doesn’t seem to matter much to European elites.

But if the rights of homosexuals clash with the rights of Muslims, what happens then?

Well, if you understand how the hierarchy of feelings is structured, you’ll quickly realize that—all things being equal—Muslim feelings will prevail.  For example, a Birmingham, England primary school stopped lessons normalizing same-sex relationships when hundreds of Muslim parents protested.

This is in contrast to the attitude of schools in the UK toward non-Muslim parents.  Such parents can expect to be ignored completely when they complain about sex-ed.  It’s not that the Muslim protests were threatening:  they weren’t.  It’s just that the Muslim population of Birmingham is thirty percent and rising.  And if you’re given the choice of offending the city’s gay population or its Muslim population, you’ll probably choose to do the former.

Meanwhile, in Helsinki the top priority is criminalizing Saint Paul’s “offensive” letter to the Romans.  But if the Finns had looked over their border to the rest of the Continent, they might have noticed that homosexuals in Europe worry very little about St. Paul and very much about the growing number of Muslim gangs in cities and suburbs.

In Brussels according to Bianca Debaets, the former Belgian Secretary of State, “there are too many areas where it is difficult for women and homosexuals to walk.”  That may be because the Muslim percentage of the population of Brussels is now between 25-30 %.  Perhaps, you may think, homosexuals in Brussels should consider moving to close-by Amsterdam which has traditionally been a haven for gays.  But the Muslim population of Amsterdam has also been growing, and as Amsterdam becomes more like the real Mecca, it is no longer the Mecca for gays that it once was. As a result, many gays have moved out.

In short, while European elites claim to be fighting homophobia, they are doing little to resist the gradual takeover of Europe by the most homophobic culture on the planet.  A similar contradiction can be found in the attitude of European officials toward anti-Semitism. On the one hand, they tell us it’s a very bad thing. On the other hand, they welcome waves of immigrants from cultures that are steeped in anti-Semitism.

These schizoid policies suggest that European leaders are seriously confused. Indeed, many of the Western experts and authorities that we once relied on for guidance are now in the grip of deep delusions about obvious realities. I refer to politicians, teachers, health professionals, and media commentators who insist that men can become pregnant, that women can become men, and that a union between two men is no different than a marriage between a man and a woman.

It's ironic that some of these gullible types in Helsinki are now in a position to criminalize a passage in the Bible. It’s ironic because the chapter from Romans that most offends them not only criticizes idolatry and homosexuality, it also criticizes the foolish thinking of the time which passed for wisdom among the elites.

But what Paul said about the supposed wise men of his day applies even more fittingly to the supposed wise men of our own age. Here’s a sample:

So they are without excuse, for although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…(Rom 1:20-22).

You can see why the authorities want to cancel Paul. The fashionable ideas they want people to bow down before are just as foolish as the once-fashionable idea of worshipping birds and reptiles. Yet, for opposing the present foolishness, Päivi Räsänen now faces prison time.

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