Finnish Free Speech Battle Against Christian Politician Continues

In a continuation of a contentious move by the government to censor free expression and religious beliefs, the Finnish Public Prosecutor moved last week to pursue an appeal to that nation’s supreme court against the acquittal of Päivi Räsänen, a distinguished member of Finland’s Parliament and a former national interior minister. This appeal follows two unanimous court decisions that exonerated Räsänen of “hate speech” allegations for sharing her faith-based beliefs, including a stance critical of LGBT relationships, which she describes as a developmental disorder.

The prolonged legal battle began when Räsänen, in 2019, publicly questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event on social media, linking to a photograph of a biblical passage, Romans 1:24-27. The Finnish government initially prosecuted her for these actions, but the District Court of Helsinki acquitted her in 2022, stating, “It is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” Despite this clear judgment, the Finnish government escalated the case to the Helsinki Court of Appeal, which also unanimously ruled in her favor.

The Finnish government’s persistence raises alarming questions about the state of free speech and religious expression in Finland. The prosecution’s dogged appeal to the Supreme Court, despite the clear and unanimous rulings of lower courts, speaks to a troubling trend in contemporary Europe where expressing particular faith-based views is increasingly being labeled as hate speech.

Räsänen herself remains undeterred, stating, “After my full exoneration in two courts, I’m not afraid of a hearing before the Supreme Court,” and expressing her readiness to defend freedom of speech and religion even at the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary.

The case against Räsänen also included charges against Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola for publishing a church pamphlet nearly two decades ago, which Räsänen had written. The prosecution demanded tens of thousands of Euros in fines and insisted on censoring their publications. Yet, the courts have stood firm in their decisions, upholding the principle that criminalizing religious speech as hate speech is a dangerous overreach.

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, supporting Räsänen’s legal defense, succinctly summarized the gravity of the situation: “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.” Coleman’s statement echoes the sentiments of many who see the Finnish government’s actions as a misuse of legal resources and a direct threat to personal freedoms.

The outcome of Räsänen’s case could set a precedent for how religious and personal beliefs are expressed and regulated in the public sphere in Finland and other Western nations.

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