Woman pastor wins sex discrimination case
The Finnish Suspreme Court found on Friday that a conservative clergyman of the Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland, who was a guest pastor at a Sunday service of the Hyvinkää congregation of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, had been guilty of gender discrimination when he refused to work alongside a woman pastor, Petra Pohjanraitio, in 2007.
Pohjanraitio had been scheduled to serve at the altar, handing out communion. However, before the service, she was told by the visiting pastor that his apostolic beliefs prevented him from working with a woman pastor at the altar.
The Supreme Court did not accept the religious freedom argument, saying that the visiting pastor’s belief did not excuse the violation of human rights, such as gender discrimination.
The Kouvola Court of Appeals had reached the same conclusion . One of the members of the congregation, who was also taking part in organising the service, was also found guilty of discrimination.
Pohjanraitio says that the media controversy and the legal process that surrounded the event was so intense that she it made her work in the congregation very difficult
The case is seen as an important precedent, as it was the first time that a case of gender discrimination against female Lutheran clergy had ever reached the courts.
Pohjanraitio indicated that she was pleased that justice won, adding that she hoped that the outcome would have an impact on future cases of discrimination.
The Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church first approved the ordination of women in 1986.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Dispute over female clergy leads to first sackings of church employees (11.3.2009)
Three men face charges of criminal discrimination against woman pastor in Hyvinkää (18.9.2007)
Police investigate claims of discrimination against women clergy in Hyvinkää (24.4.2007)
Majority of new clergy in the Greater Helsinki area are female (10.6.2008)
Church committee: Male clergy must not refuse to work with women colleagues (19.12.2006)