Hardly had Aki Ruotsala been appointed CEO of the Pori Jazz festival when he was forced to resign after voicing support for "curing homosexuality," the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reported.
The Christian Democrat politician was appointed to lead the Pori Jazz festival on Monday, prompting local journalists to put his previous statements under scrutiny.
Subsequently, Ruotsala was found to have in the capacity of the leader of the party's youth wing defended the Christian Democrats' campaign "Älä alistu" ("Do not submit) with slogans such as "heal and recover," suggesting that homosexuality can be cured.
In a Wednesday interview with the newspaper Satakunnan Kansa, Ruotsala reiterated this notion, comparing sexual orientation to drug addiction. He also suggested that there is no such thing as homosexuals, only homosexuality. At the same time, Ruotsala refrained from passing judgment, stressing that he was no theologian.
Ruotsala's remarks raised a storm of criticism. Among others, marketing expert Altti Papinsaari suggested Ruotsalo's views could damage the image of Pori.
"These days you can't represent extreme conservative views, where you question and even denigrate sexual minorities," Papinsaari said.
Center Party MP Mikko Kärnäs ventured that the police should examine whether the Christian Democrats were a "discriminating and racist" party.
Following calls from MPs and artists to boycott the festival (including jazz pianist Iiro Rantala), the Pori Jazz festival summoned an urgent meeting and let go of Ruotsalabefore he had even begun to operate as CEO, as his tenure was formally to start in August. Board chairman Hannu Jaakkola regretted the situation, calling Ruotsala's views contradictory to the festival's values.
"Pori Jazz takes absolutely no part in any form of discrimination. We are an equal and non-discriminatory festival. These values are shared by the board and the entire staff. We apologize to all those affected and injured," Jaakkola was quoted as saying.
After the resignation, Ruotsala ensured that he has always "treated all people equally," regardless of their background.
Pori Jazz is a week-long music festival held each July in the west coast city of Pori, attracting more than 100,000 people every year. This year's event will be headlined by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Alanis Morissette.
The Christian Democrats formed in the 1950s as a Christian faction of the Finnish political heavyweight National Coalition Party. They claim to follow the tenets of Christian democracy and have a center-right orientation.