An open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the prosecution of Dr Päivi Räsänen.

Dear Archbishop Justin and Archbishop Stephen,

I am writing to you about the case of the Finnish Christian member of Parliament Dr Päivi Räsänen who is being prosecuted by the authorities in Finland for publicly upholding traditional Christian teaching on sexual ethics.[1]

The alleged crime for which Dr Räsänen is being prosecuted, and for which she faces up to two years in prison if convicted, is declaring in a pamphlet published in 2004, and in a 2018 television show, that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and that same-sex sexual relationships are contrary to God’s will, and for posting a tweet critical of the Church of Finland’s support for the Helsinki LGBT Pride event in 2019.

The prosecution of Dr Räsänen is a matter of concern for members of the Church of England because she is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, a church with which we are in communion under the 1992 Porvoo Agreement, and because there are congregations of the Diocese in Europe in Finland whose members could potentially face prosecution in exactly the same manner as Dr Räsänen.

There are four key questions about the prosecution of Dr Räsänen on which it would be good to be clear about your views.

First, do you agree with the Barmen declaration of 1934 that ‘Jesus Christ, as he is testified to us in the Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God, whom we are to hear, whom we are to trust and obey in life and in death’?

Secondly, do you agree that such obedience to Jesus Christ involves a willingness to declare publicly what Holy Scripture teaches about the nature of marriage and human sexual activity, and that therefore as a  committed Christian Dr Räsänen was under an obligation to write and speak as she did?

Thirdly do you agree that the prosecution of Dr Räsänen contravenes the freedom guaranteed under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights for an individual to ‘manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance’ and that it sets a deeply worrying precedent for Christians, not only in Finland, but in other parts of Europe as well?

Fourthly, if the answer to these three questions is ‘yes,’ will you be willing to raise the issue of Dr Räsänen’s prosecution with both the Church of Finland, which has been noticeably quiet about the matter, and the civil authorities in Finland?

The basic issue is whether you agree that it would be unjust for a Christian to be imprisoned simply for publicly upholding traditional, biblically grounded, Christian teaching about marriage and human sexuality, and, if you do, whether you are willing to use the influence you have to try to prevent this injustice taking place.   

Yours sincerely

Dr Martin Davie


[1] For details see Rod Dreher, ‘Finland Persecutes Christian Lawmaker,’  The American Conservative, 29 April 2021 at https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/finland-persecutes-christian-lawmaker-paivi-rasanen/ and ‘When a tweet can land you in jail: Criminal charges brought against Finnish MP’, ADF International, 30 April 2021 at https://adfinternational.org/news/when-a-tweet-can-land-you-in-jail-criminal-charges-brought-against-finnish-mp/

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