Press releases

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today urged the U.S. State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, and Douglas Hickey, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, to raise concerns over the Finnish government’s refusal to accept the acquittal of Dr. Päivi Räsänen and Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola.

Räsänen and Pohjola were unanimously absolved of criminal liability for expressing their religious beliefs on March 30, 2022, and the court ordered Finnish prosecutors to pay nearly $67,000 in legal fees. The Finnish government, however, appealed the acquittal. 

Because Finnish prosecutors seek an appeal in a criminal case for years-old expressions of Christian faith, religious freedom remains under threat in Finland despite Dr. Räsänen and Rev. Dr. Pohjola’s acquittal over eight months ago. No person should be subjected to criminal prosecution for expressing their sincere religious views in a non-violent manner. If a member of the Finnish Parliament and a Lutheran bishop can be forced to endure criminal prosecution by the Finnish Government for their peaceful, closely held religious beliefs, what protections are afforded to ordinary citizens who lack the influence, resources, and media attention to defend against such a criminal prosecution? asked Kennedy.

Kennedy originally wrote to the State Department in March 2022 to raise concerns about Finland’s prosecution of non-violent expressions of faith. The prosecution of Räsänen and Pohjolaoccurs while Europe continues to witness anti-Christian hate crimes and hostility toward Christian-led organizations throughout the continent.

In my first letter on this issue, I asked our Department of State officials to stand up for religious freedom and stand against any erosion of this fundamental right—no matter where this erosion may occur. I urge you to continue to do so, Kennedy wrote.

The letter is available here.