November 30, 2007
Update: Pastor Convicted with Criminal Discrimination
Pastor fined for refusing to lead service with a woman.
A Finnish district court prosecutor today convicted a pastor with criminal discrimination for refusing to work with a female pastor. Two other church leaders were also fined for not preventing the violation.
The pastor was fined the equivalent of 20 days of his salary, according to a Finnish news report. Finland's laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace or in public based on factors like sex, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Pastors within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the country's state church, disagree on whether women should serve as pastors. However, this is the first time that a church disagreement was brought before law enforcement. Pastor Ari Norro and the two church members were tried November 16 and convicted today.
Johan Candelin, director of World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission and Finland resident, said it is unclear whether the pastor will attempt to bring the case to a higher court. Candelin said the fine is equivalent to the fine a burglar receives, and the three church members will have a criminal record.
As previously reported on Christianity Today's website, Norro's infringement came during a Communion service last March. Norro is a member of the Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland, a group that believes the Bible prohibits women from serving as pastors. He offered to leave when a woman pastor arrived 15 minutes before the service to help serve at the altar. The woman, Petra Pohjanraito, decided to leave instead.
"It's a very sad day for the Finnish church when people are taken to court for following their conscience," Candelin told CT today. "In the future, the court will surely follow this line that they now started." The case could set a precedent for similar cases concerning discrimination against homosexuals.