WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) urged Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Ian Campbell, the current leading U.S. diplomat in Finland, to closely examine the Finnish government’s criminal prosecutions of Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen for expressing their religious beliefs.
“The origins and circumstances of the criminal prosecution against Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen are clear: these Christians are on trial for their faith—which is, apparently, incompatible with Finnish law. Even more concerning, Rev. Dr. Pohjola is a Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, and Dr. Päivi Räsänen is a Member of the Finnish Parliament. If these Finnish leaders are unable to engage in freedom of speech and the free exercise of their Christian faith, what ultimately protects ordinary people exercising their faith in Finland and elsewhere from similar abuses of power at the hands of intolerant governments?” wrote Kennedy.
Kennedy noted Congress’s 1998 passage of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which establishes an annual report on international religious freedom, detailing the status of religious freedom in foreign countries, violations of religious freedom by foreign governments, and the United States’ efforts and policies in support of religious freedom.
“Under IRFA’s authority, the Office of International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State was established to promote ‘universal respect for freedom of religion or belief for all’ because the United States ‘recognizes religious freedom as an inalienable right and is therefore committed to its preservation and advancement for all,’” wrote Kennedy.
“I ask that you stand up for religious freedom and stand against any erosion of this fundamental right—no matter where this erosion may occur,” concluded Kennedy.
While this criminal prosecution began in April 2021 and focuses on events occurring years earlier, the case is only now approaching a final verdict at trial.
The letter is available here.