Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Finland: Supreme Court Decides Sex Discrimination Case

(Oct. 26, 2010) On October 22, 2010, Finland's Supreme Court decided that a Lutheran clergyman was guilty of discrimination based on gender. The case stemmed from a 2007 incident in which the clergyman, a member of the conservative Lutheran Evangelical Association, refused to serve alongside a female pastor, Petra Pohjanraitio, when he was invited to be a guest pastor at a congregation in Hyvinkää, a town about 30 miles north of Helsinki. A member of the congregation with responsibility for organizing the service was also found guilty of discrimination. (Woman Pastor Wins Sex Discrimination Case, HELSINGIN SANOMAT INTERNATIONAL EDITION (Oct. 22, 2010),

The Supreme Court, in making its determination, rejected the argument that the clergyman should have had the choice to refuse to work with a female pastor at the altar on the grounds of free exercise of his religion. It took the view instead that his beliefs did not excuse gender discrimination. This decision confirmed the previous one of the Kouvola Court of Appeals. This was the first gender discrimination case against a Lutheran clergyman in the Finnish courts. Women have been eligible for ordination in the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church since 1986. (Id.)