Finnish parlimentarian Päivi Räsänen, who is being investigated by police for posting a Bible quote in a social media post criticising a church’s sponsorship of an LGBT Pride event, is today facing another round of questioning by officers as they build their case against the Lutheran politician.
Police have also re-opened their investigation into a pamphlet produced by the Christian Democratic Party member sixteen years ago in which she discusses the Christian understanding of human sexuality and opposition to same-sex marriage.
Räsänen, who has been a member of parliament since 1995, has been accused of “hate speech” after questioning the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s official partnership with “Pride 2019” by quoting Romans 1:24-26, which condemns homosexual acts.
The former Minister for the Interior has expressed alarm at the decision to investigate her public utterances on the matter, saying she never expected to face a criminal investigation for sharing her “deeply held beliefs.”
“As a Christian and a democratically elected Member of Parliament, I have often heard things with which I disagree – sometimes very strongly. At times, I have felt insulted. I believe the best response to this is more debate, not censorship,” she said.
“These police investigations raise concerns about limiting the freedoms that have been guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human right treaties. A major threat for freedom of religion and free speech is that we don’t make use of these rights. I hope these criminal investigations won’t lead to self-censorship among Christians. I am going to use my rights regardless of the police investigation. I encourage others to do the same.”
Räsänen could serve up to two years in prison if found guilty of hate speech under “ethnic agitation” laws, whilst her defense team has said that the case represents a profound threat to freedom of expression.
Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom Lorcan Price said that a conviction could violate such “rights protected in international and European Law.”
“The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that the right to freedom of expression does not protect merely popular ideas, but also those that challenge the status quo. You can support Mrs. Räsänen’s freedom of speech whether you agree with her positions or not. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to those with whom we disagree. Tolerance is a two-way street. Driving people with different beliefs out of the public square is not only a violation of the rights protected in international and European law, but leaves our societies all the poorer for it,” he claimed.
Räsänen was interrogated about the June 2019 tweet for four hours by police in November, refusing to remove the tweet when asked, by which time the Prosecutor General had already re-opened the investigation into into her 2004 pamphlet.
The investigation into the pamphlet was prompted by “sexual orientation” being added to the list of group attributes that could be subject to agitation under the updated 2011 Finnish criminal code.
Räsänen now awaits notice from the police as to whether they will proceed with a prosecution for one or both of the statements she previously made.