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January 29, 2024

SEC Narrowly Avoids Biggest Scam Since Snake Oil – For Now

January 29th, 2024

This column is co-authored by Derek Kreifels and Paul Teller.

Imagine a business that doesn’t manufacture any product, doesn’t sell anything of value and literally doesn’t earn a single dime in revenue – but still manages to raise millions of dollars on the New York Stock Exchange with the government’s approval. The idea is not only preposterous, it’s an obvious recipe for disaster – and yet it almost became a reality under Joe Biden’s administration.

Natural Asset Companies (NACs) are a proposed new type of business designed not to make money, but rather to manage and maintain the inherent “value” of natural assets like forests and rivers. NACs would lock up public lands from productive economic uses like farming and energy extraction, and instead assign arbitrary economic value to natural processes such as photosynthesis. These companies would then seek public investment, even though there is virtually no chance they would ever turn a profit. Unsurprisingly, the NACs proposal was heavily supported by the same people who support foisting radical left-wing environmental, social and governance goals on private businesses.

Last week, the NYSE withdrew its proposal from the Securities and Exchange Commission under intense pressure from state financial officers and conservative groups – but make no mistake, the NAC proposal is certain to reemerge after getting a PR makeover. Whatever new form the proposal takes, whatever clever name it is given, the SEC should shut it down on sight.

The fact is, there is no need for a new class of business when existing corporate structures have proven sufficient over centuries. Corporations, nonprofits and trusts can already buy and preserve public land. They just can’t dupe unwitting investors into coughing up their cash under the guise that they will somehow turn a profit by buying and then not using an expensive asset.

We don’t use the word “dupe” lightly – in fact, deceit is at the very heart of the NAC proposal. NACs would exempt themselves from the generally accepted accounting principles other businesses must adhere to. The reason why is obvious: you can’t run a Ponzi scheme for very long without cooking the books.

And since NACs wouldn’t turn a profit, how could investors possibly determine the company’s worth? The company itself would assign a dollar value to the natural assets it owns. But how does one quantify, for example, the scenic beauty of rolling hills? One person may be willing to spend only money he could make back by using the land. Another may be willing to spend money to buy the land and preserve the view from his property. The beauty of a sunrise, the dew on a spider’s web, a child’s first kick in his mother’s womb, or a bride’s “I do,” the things that make life worth living, simply cannot be priced. But the geniuses pushing for NACs believe they can price the priceless.

Most concerning of all is the clear national security threat posed by NACs, which would provide opportunities for foreign adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party to gain control over essential American resources. It would be suicidal for the United States to outsource the management of our farmland, our national parks or our energy industry to Communist China.

Thankfully, America has dodged the bullet – for now. But the radical left is nothing if not persistent. When the NAC proposal rears its ugly head in the future, the SEC must fulfill its mission of protecting investors and maintaining fair markets. NACs are nothing more than an extreme environmental political agenda wrapped in a thin veneer of legitimate business, and would rival Enron, Bernie Madoff, and Dutch tulips in history’s chronicle of all-time bad investments.

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Christian and Jewish Leaders Condemn ‘Political, Spiritual Persecution’ of Paivi Rasanen

January 29th, 2024

An interfaith coalition has offered prayers of solidarity to two evangelical Christians facing their third trial for declaring that homosexuality violates the Bible, a position prosecutors call “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.”

Despite two unanimous acquittals, Finland’s state prosecutor has taken an elderly member of parliament and a Lutheran bishop before the Supreme Court to answer for their traditional Christian beliefs on sexuality. Dr. Päivi Räsänen, who has served in parliament for 29 years, and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), are facing “spiritual persecution” for upholding the Scripture, said a letter signed by dozens of Christian and Jewish leaders.

“Once again you face unjust charges. For almost half a decade, you have confronted targeted legal harassment for simply living out your Christian faith, the direct result of not just political persecution but also spiritual persecution,” says the letter, which was led by Advancing American Freedom and released today. “Now, despite twice being unanimously declared not guilty at the Helsinki District Court and the Helsinki Court of Appeals, the prosecutor has filed another appeal, potentially forcing a third trial at Finland’s Supreme Court.”

Authorities have centered their legal case on a five-year-old social media post made by the MP, a member of the Christian Democrats Party, asking why her Lutheran church body would take part in an LGBT “Pride 2019” event. The post on Twitter, now X, included a photo of Romans 1:24-27, which clarifies that homosexual behavior is sinful.

Two years later, in April 2021, prosecutors charged Räsänen and Pohjola with “agitation against a minority” under the nation’s law against “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.” Police arrested Räsänen and subjected her to 13 hours of police interrogation before her trial. Prosecutors dubbed the Bible verses in her tweet, a booklet the two wrote in 2004 expounding on biblical doctrine titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relations Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity,” as well as comments Räsänen made on the radio in December 2019 as “hate speech.”

Räsänen and Pohjola were first acquitted by the Helsinki District Court on March 30, 2022. The three-judge panel ruled that prosecutors had violated the Christians’ right to freedom of expression contained in Section 12 of the Finnish Constitution, as well as noting the thorny legal questions posed if secular judges begin ruling on matters of religious doctrine. “It is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts,” the court declared.

But within days, then-Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen appealed the charges. Räsänen then faced a two-day trial last August 31-September 1. The Court of Appeals unanimously acquitted MP Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola on November 14, 2023. Under the law, social media posts must be intended to offend, and “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression,” they ruled. The judges ordered the state to pay both defendants’ legal fees.

Finland’s current state prosecutor appealed the dismissal once again earlier this month.

“It is shocking that the Finnish state prosecutor has decided to target MP Räsänen for a third time, because she politely expressed her religious beliefs in public,” Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council — and who signed the letter — told The Washington Stand. “So far, the Finnish courts have been clear in affirming Räsänen’s right to express her religious beliefs. However, the process of being dragged through court is often the punishment itself.”

The thirst to continually prosecute the grandmother of 10 exposes the government’s intolerance and malice toward traditional Christian viewpoints, said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen’s legal defense. “Dragging people through the courts for years, subjecting them to hour-long police interrogations, and wasting taxpayer money to police people’s deeply held beliefs has no place in a democratic society,” said Coleman. “As is so often the case in ‘hate speech’ trials, the process has become the punishment.”

The U.S. letter offers “prayers and encouragement” to the embattled pair “on behalf of the millions of Americans who support freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”

The letter assures that “you do not stand alone,” because “each one of us stands alongside you,” note its writers. “We are watching, and we are praying for you. The world is watching, and the world is praying for you.”

The signatories hope their fellow believers, and all those who value freedom of conscience and expression, will make that promise real as the West falls progressively under the sway of illiberal secular repression. “Christians around the world should continue to pray for and voice their support for MP Räsänen,” said Del Turco.

The faith leaders signing the letter include Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, former U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, former Ambassador Ken Blackwell, and Rabbi Yaakov Menken of the Coalition for Jewish Values, among many others.

The Lutheran pair’s case also attracted high-level support from Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who named Räsänen, detransitioner Chloe Cole, collegiate swimming record-holder Riley Gaines, and concerned parent Scott Smith his personal “heroes” at FRC’s 2023 Pray Vote Stand Summit. “She gives you hope,” said Roy. “She gives you a belief that we can stand up and stand athwart that kind of tyranny.”

Räsänen has reflected on the words of Jesus to rejoice in suffering, taking pride that each trial has allowed her to quote and explain the Bible’s teachings in depth.

“After my full exoneration in two courts, I’m not afraid of a hearing before the Supreme Court,” said Räsänen. An “acquittal from the Supreme Court would set an even stronger positive precedent for everyone’s right to free speech and religion. And if the court decided to overturn the lower courts’ acquittals, I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as the European Court of Human Rights.”

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AAF Leads Letter of Support for Finland Bible Trial Christians

January 29th, 2024

Advancing American Freedom sent a letter in support of M.P. Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola, who have faced unjust charges and targeted legal harassment for living out their Christian faith.

“For Christians in Finland the process is the punishment. A rouge prosecutor is dead set on criminalizing free speech and freedom of religion. The injustice of a third trial at Finland’s Supreme Court against those who were simply living out their faith is unacceptable,” said AAF Executive Director Paul Teller. “The world is watching and they do not stand alone, and AAF will continue to be a voice for religious freedom in the United States and around the world.”

Background: M.P Päivi Räsänen faces three charges of “hate speech” for criticizing her church’s sponsorship of a gay pride parade, writing a church pamphlet on marriage, and speaking on marriage on a radio show. Bishop Juhana Pohjola face charges of “hate speech” for publishing the pamphlet.

You can read the letter here.

Letter of Support for Finland Bible Trial Christians