C: Päivi Räsänen via Instagram

Finnish Christian MP wins on all charges in major free speech trial

The Helsinki District Court has cleared a Finnish Christian Democrat lawmaker of charges of hate speech for using quotes from the Bible to affirm her questioning of support for Finland’s Gay Pride week in 2019.

Finnish lawmaker and former interior minister Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission were on trial in the case. 

Also on trial, according to commentators, was the Bible itself, in a case without precedent in Finland, with the Helsinki district court having to weigh the importance of free speech and whether citing the Bible can be considered a hate crime. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who supported both Räsänen and Pohjola, said the Court “upheld the right to free speech” in making its decision on Wednesday.

In January, Räsänen told Reuters that Christian’s had the right to express Biblical teachings in public life.

“Obviously, Christians sticking to the Bible’s teachings have the right to participate in public debate,” she said.

Räsänen was accused of committing hate speech on three ocassions: in a pamphlet about biblical marriage published almost two decades ago, in a broadcast interview, and in a date from 2019 in which she questioned why the State Lutheran Church was officially supporting Finland’s Gay Pride week.

In a 2019 interview with CBN news, she explained: “In my tweet, I directly cited Romans first chapter and verses 24 to 27 and posted the picture of the passages from the Bible”. The passage condemns homosexuality as a sin. 

When asked by CBN News if she was surprised to be charged in the first place, Räsänensaid she was.

She said, “Yes. It was a surprise for me that there is even a police investigation about that case. I wouldn’t have believed it.”

The Lutheran pastor who published the pamphlet Räsänen wrote on Christian marriage was also found not guilty.

ADF said on Wednesday that it was celebrating the unanimous ruling.

“Today we celebrate as the Helsinki District Court has upheld the right to free speech. In a unanimous ruling the court concluded that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts”. The prosecution was ordered to pay more than 60,000 EUR in legal costs.  All of the charges against Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola were dismissed.”

Prior to the verdict, Räsänen told CBN News she would appeal the verdict if she was found guilty, and encouraged all Christians to be “open about their faith”.

“I’m going to fight so far as it is possible, and I will not recant what I have said, will not renounce my beliefs and my faith, and I will encourage all Christians to be open about their faith and open about the Bible,” she said.

She also says she does not regret what she did or the subsequent ordeal, and said she has received letters from people who left gay lifestyles after reading about her story.

“This process has been long, it has lasted for three years, and it has not only consumed time and resources on my part, but also of the police and the court. On the other hand, I have felt joy about being able to speak about the Gospel and the atonement of Jesus during these couple of years,” she said in a statement after the ruling.

CBN News reports that her trial “helped awaken many Christians in Finland, who rallied to her defence”.

She said, “I have a very, very strong feeling that this has been my calling. So in, in some way, this has been a hard time, but in some way I have felt that this has been a privilege.”

Unfortunately for Räsänen, the case doesn’t appear to be over, even after an overwhelming unanimous ruling in her favour.

“I had hoped that the prosecutor would have settled for this ruling, but today afternoon I heard that the prosecutors will very likely appeal to the Court of Appeal. I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts, also in the European Court of Human Rights. I want to encourage others to use these basic rights also,” she added.

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