Church fined for gender discrimination

Hyvinkaa, Finland - A Finnish court fined two male ministers and a woman church volunteer for violating equality laws after they refused to work with female clergy at a church service.

The district court of Hyvinkaa in southern Finland said it had fined the three 600 euros (NZ$1,135), 320 euros (NZ$603) and 120 euros (NZ$226) respectively for discriminating against a colleague because they disagreed about a woman's right to conduct church services.

Ari Norro, 43, and volunteer Pirkko Ojala, 71, discriminated against Petra Pohjanraito because of her gender, the court found.

"I am satisfied in the sense that this is a big principle for the church," Pohjanraito said.

"This sets an important precedent, which has to be taken seriously."

Norro said the decision was a disappointment.

"I cannot act against my faith," he said, adding that he might appeal against the court's decision.

Parish head Tauno Tuominen, 62, Pohjanraito's superior, was found guilty of job discrimination as he did not intervene to force Norro to work with Pohjanraito.

Norro and Ojala said their freedom of religion should allow them not to work with female ministers.

Both are members of the Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland, which cooperates with local Lutheran parishes but does not allow women to work as ministers.