News Roundup

Finnish politician cleared of “hate speech” for Bible Tweet

All charges against two Finnish people for having publicly expressed their Christian beliefs have been dismissed by the Helsinki Court of Appeal.

Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola had both been tried for “hate speech” in August and acquitted, but state prosecutors appealed that judgement.

Räsänen, Finland’s former Interior Minister, was formally charged with “agitation against a minority group” in 2021 under a section of the Finnish criminal code titled “war crimes and crimes against humanity” for sharing her Christian beliefs on marriage and sexual ethics in a 2019 tweet, as well as a 2019 live radio debate and 2004 church pamphlet. Bishop Pohjola was charged for publishing Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet. The case has garnered global media attention as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat posed to free speech.

In the 2019 tweet, to coincide with a ‘Pride’ march in which her Lutheran Church took part, she said ‘How does the doctrinal foundation of the Church fit in with shame and sin being raised as a matter of pride?’

Reacting to the court ruling, she said: “I am deeply relieved. The court has fully endorsed and upheld the decision of the district court, which recognized everyone’s right to free speech.”

In a unanimous ruling that upheld the District Court’s March 2022 unanimous acquittal, the court dismissed the arguments of the state prosecutor.

The Court has ordered the prosecution to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to cover costs incurred by both defendants.


Baby dies after courts refuse parents request to try treatment in Italy

The death of baby Indi Gregory yesterday has been called an unjust violation of the right of parents to make medical choices for their children.

The critically ill baby who was at the centre of a legal argument over her treatment died Monday after having her breathing tube removed.

Judges in several High Court and Court of Appeal cases ruled the eight-month-old should die but last week Italy stepped in and made her a citizen in a last-minute legal bid to bring her to a Rome hospital for treatment.

But on Friday that attempt failed.

She was moved from the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham (QMC) to a hospice where she died in the early hours of today in her mother’s arms.

Her father Dean said: “The NHS and the courts not only took away her chance to live a longer life, but they also took away Indi’s dignity to pass away in the family home where she belonged”.

Commenting, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre said the case, “as so many before (cf. the cases of Alfie Evans, Charlie Gard, and many others) involves a violation of the right and prerogative of parents to make medical choices for their children”.

“To remove this right and responsibility is an act of injustice to both parents and children until and unless the former can be shown to be both unreasonable and harmful to their child”.


Births in Poland fall 11% in one year

The number of births in Poland fell by 11pc in the 12 months to September, the first time the decline has hit double-digit levels.

The fertility rate has also been steadily declining from a high of 1.45 in 2017, to 1.26 in 2022, well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

The outgoing conservative government, which has been in power since 2015, had made pro-natal policies a priority.

In the 12 months to September, Poland had 280,000 live births. That was the lowest annualised figure on record and 34,800 fewer than in the same period a year ago, according to calculations by economist Rafał Mundry based on data from Statistics Poland (GUS), a state agency.

Last year, the number of births in Poland had already fallen to its lowest level since the Second World War and the number of deaths exceeded the number of births for the tenth year in a row.


Pro-abortion amendment shows ‘desperate need for conversion’, says bishop

There is a desperate need for conversion to a culture of life, according to an Ohio Archbishop after voters in the State approved a very permissive abortion law which makes the procedure available for any reason up to 22 weeks, which is near the point of viability. After 22 weeks, it will be available where “necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health”, which in countries like Britain is interpreted very broadly.

The measure passed with roughly 57 percent of the vote.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, who had helped lead the charge to reject the amendment, expressed disappointment in the result.

“The people of Ohio missed this important opportunity to demonstrate that the health and safety of women, the fundamental rights of parents, and the lives of preborn children deserve protection,” he said.

“The passage of Issue 1 [as the amendment was called] shows that there remains a desperate need for conversion of hearts and minds to a culture of life in our country, one that respects the inherent dignity and sacredness of every human being from conception to natural death,” Schnurr said.


US Christian ministry asks court to protect freedom to hire people of faith

A Christian nonprofit organisation is asking a US court to protect its freedom to hire people who share its religious beliefs and desire to spread the gospel through its homeless shelter, addiction-recovery programs, outreach efforts, meal services, and health clinics.

The Yakima Union Gospel Mission filed their opening brief last Wednesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit after a lower court dismissed the mission’s case.

The mission will serve anybody, but it furthers its religious purpose by employing likeminded believers who agree with and live out the mission’s Christian beliefs and practices, including abstaining from any sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

In 2021, the Washington Supreme Court reinterpreted state law to prohibit religious organizations, including the mission, from only hiring individuals who share their religious beliefs. Soon after state officials began enforcing the law against religious organisations, and now the mission is threatened with significant penalties for using its religiously based hiring practices.


Christmas and Easter excluded from UK National Trust’s ‘inclusion’ calendar

Christian holidays have been excluded from the National Trust’s inclusion calendar, triggering a backlash from members.

While Diwali, Eid and Ramadan feature in the heritage group’s “inclusivity and wellbeing” calendar, distributed to volunteers, Christmas and Easter go unmentioned.

At the Trust’s Annual General Meeting, a panel member was forced to deny it was in favour of “internal discrimination” when it was pointed out that its calendar for volunteers highlighted Muslim, Hindu and Jewish festivals while ignoring those celebrated by Christians.

David Lamming, a Trust member from Suffolk, had asked for an explanation, prompting a loud round of applause from the audience, one of whom later said it was a sign that the heritage group had become “too woke”.

John Orna-Ornstein, the Trust’s curation director, said in response: “I’m really clear that there is no such internal discrimination”.

Other dates flagged up on the calendar include Transgender Awareness Week, Black History Month and LGBT+ History Month.


Bishops cry foul as NI Secretary imposes abortion ideology on schools

The Catholic Bishops are alleging a breach of human rights by the British Government in imposing what amounts to a pro-abortion point of view on pupils in Northern Ireland, including Catholic schools.

The Catholic Schools’ Trustee Service (CSTS) believes that the legislation brought forward through Westminster by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland challenges the rights of Trustees to promote a faith-based education.

CSTS is very concerned that this has been done “to impose on schools a particular ideological view of abortion and the prevention of early pregnancy”.

In a statement, they say this “undermines the parent’s or carer’s right to have their children educated in accordance with their ethical, religious, and philosophical convictions, as is recognised through international human rights legislation.  Legislative topics of such sensitivity should have remained a matter for a locally elected assembly to consult upon, debate, and agree a way forward that best meets the needs of the people in this jurisdiction.”


Live animal Christmas crib to return to Dublin’s Mansion House 

The live animal crib is to return to the Mansion House in Dublin this Christmas, Lord Mayor Daithí de Róiste has announced.

There was controversy and a break with tradition last year when the crib – featuring a donkey, two sheep and a goat gathered around a scene depicting the nativity – moved to St Stephen’s Green after then lord mayor, Green Party councillor Caroline Conroy, objected to it citing, without evidence, animal welfare grounds.

The crib, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, had been in place on the forecourt of the Mansion House since 1995.

Announcing the return of the crib to the Mansion House, Mr de Róiste (FF) said tradition was “such an important aspect of Christmas” and that for many Dubliners, including himself, the crib “was always a huge part of that”.


Do not discriminate against pro-life candidates in hiring, pleads doctor

A doctor has called for the government to strengthen freedom of conscience for medical practitioners with a pro-life ethic and oppose a move to allow discrimination against doctors in the hiring process if they do not wish to carry out abortions.

In an opinion piece published in the Irish Medical Times, Dr Brendan Crowley wrote that the report arising from the Abortion Review undertaken by the state, “raises several worrying points which would have a negative impact on freedom of conscience.”

“Its author and the Minister for Health have stated they intend to compel the eight remaining maternity hospitals into providing abortions. It’s clear that eroding freedom of conscience is a key means to achieve this,” he said.

“The report’s author herself stated at the Oireachtas Health Committee on May 31 that she would have no compunction about discriminating against doctors in the hiring process who indicated they may wish to exercise their right to consciously object to the abortion process, which they are entitled to do, under section 22 of the 2018 Act.”


US votes expand abortion access and stymie pro-life proposals

Voters on Tuesday enshrined a legal right to abortion in Ohio and rejected Republican candidates in Virginia to thwart the State Governor’s plan to ban abortion at 15 weeks.

The conservative-leaning state of Ohio approved a ballot referendum that adds a new right to “reproductive freedom,” including abortion and contraception, to the state constitution.

Over 56% of nearly 4 million Ohioans selected “yes” for the adoption of Issue 1, in contrast to only 44% who chose “no.”

The amendment guarantees that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decision,” including, but not limited to “abortion.”

Many opponents of the amendment fear that it will open the door to late-term abortion and eviscerate parental consent and notification laws for minors seeking abortions.

Meanwhile in the liberal-leaning state of Virginia, Democrats kept control of the state Senate and flipped the state House of Delegates on Tuesday in what is a major blow to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to pass legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

An effort by Youngkin and legislative Republicans to pass a ban was a key focus of the rhetoric from both Republican and Democratic candidates. Democrats sought to paint Republicans as a threat to abortion access and Republicans labelled Democrats as extreme on the issue.