Chris Lange, FISM News
A Finnish Parliamentarian accused of “hate speech” for expressing her biblical beliefs on marriage and sexuality has been acquitted on all charges.
Alliance Defending Freedom International, which represented Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola in the case, announced last Wednesday that a Finnish court concluded that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts” in a unanimous ruling.
Räsänen, who was facing up to two years in prison, expressed her relief upon learning of the court’s decision.
“I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favor,” she said. “I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted.
Räsänen said that, while she is thankful for having had the opportunity to defend free speech, she hopes the outcome of her case “will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal.”
Räsänen, a former Minister of the Interior, and Bishop Pohjola were accused last fall of spreading “hate speech.” The charges stemmed from their disseminating of a 2004 pamphlet written by Räsänen titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” in which she made a biblical case against homosexuality. The charges against Räsänen also reference a 2019 tweet criticizing the Finnish Lutheran Church for supporting Pride Month, as well as comments she made on homosexuality during a 2019 radio debate.
“We welcome the Helsinki District Court’s ruling,” Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, said in a statement. Coleman had previously called the charges “unprecedented.”
“This is an important decision, which upholds the fundamental right to freedom of speech in Finland. In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship,” he continued. “This is the foundation of every free and democratic society. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies.”
Christians across many denominations around the globe and other leaders rallied around Räsänen following her arrest. A circulated prayer pledge for the Finnish MP garnered over 14,000 signatures.
The shocking persecution also spurred a group of six Republican Congressmen led by Chip Roy (R-Texas) in November to issue a joint letter to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Chair Hon. Nadine Maenza expressing alarm over Räsänen’s arrest.
“We are greatly concerned that the use of Finnish hate speech law is tantamount to a secular blasphemy law. It could open the door for [the] prosecution of other devout Christians, Muslims, Jews, and adherents of other faiths for publicly stating their religious beliefs,” the letter stated.
Räsänen had previously said she was willing to go to jail for her beliefs and denied having in any way “defamed homosexuals, whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend.”
“The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a courtroom? I will not step back from my conviction nor from my writings. I do not apologize for the writings of the Apostle Paul either,” she said in a public statement.