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Finnish Christians on Trial for Hate Speech in Upcoming Religious Freedom and Free Speech Case

Finnish Christians on Trial for Hate Speech in Upcoming Religious Freedom and Free Speech Case

Finnish Christians on Trial for Hate Speech in Upcoming Religious Freedom and Free Speech Case

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In April 2021, Päivi Räsänen, a member of the Finnish parliament since 1995, was accused of hate speech after an anonymous citizen filed a complaint against a 2019 tweet where Räsänen quoted Romans 1 and questioned her church’s support of a LGBTQ Pride event. 

After a police investigation, the Prosecutor General brought three criminal charges against the 62-year-old over her tweet, a 2004 pamphlet on sexual ethics written by Räsänen and a 2019 interview with Finnish actor, Ruben Stiller. In both the pamphlet and interview Räsänen expresses her support for the historical Christian view of marriage as between one man and one woman.

In addition to Räsänen, Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) has been similarly charged for publishing and distributing Räsänen’s pamphlet 18 years ago.

Both Räsänen and Pohjola have, on multiple occasions, affirmed the “the divinely given dignity, value, and human rights of all, including all who identify with the LGBTQ community,” but hate speech charges have still been brought against them for publicly supporting a classical Christian position.

Their trial begins Monday, January 24, 2022.

Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s official charges are “ethnic agitation against a group.” Possible sentences for this crime in Finland include fines and up to two years imprisonment, in addition to removal of the tweet, the pamphlet and the interview. 

On more than one occasion the two have been interrogated by Finnish police concerning their charges. Räsänen was thrice summoned to the police station and questioned for over four hours.

“It is a baffling, surreal experience to be ordered into a police interrogation over the teachings of the Bible,” stated Räsänen in a press release, “and in a country which has such deep roots in the freedom of speech and of religion. We are accustomed to hearing news like this from a totally different reference group of nations, places like North Korea or the former Soviet Union. The freedoms of speech and of religion are the cornerstones of democracy.”

Freedom of religion and of speech are heavily protected rights in the Finnish Constitution and in international law, and the Bible itself is completely legal.

However, the charges brought against Räsänen and Pohjola indicate a different reality, one where publicly expressing certain opinions and beliefs that don’t align with state-held orthodoxy is considered unacceptable, harmful and worth prosecuting. 

In short, the ruling in Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s trial will set a precedent for hate speech cases in Finland and throughout Europe.

“[E]veryone’s watching…this case and thinking if someone can be investigated by the police for tweeting a picture of some Bible verses and a pamphlet that was written [18] years ago, then really are any of us safe? Is any of our speech safe?” said Paul Coleman, executive director of Alliance Defending Freedom International, which is assisting in Räsänen’s defense.

“I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech,” Räsänen has stated. “The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.”

“This indictment shows that right now is the time to defend these foundational freedoms and rights,” said Räsänen in a press release.

 

Image: Bishop Juhana Pohjola and member of Finnish parliament, Päivi Räsänen who face trial on Monday, January 24, 2022 for charges of hate speech.

Acquired from an article by Black Christian News titled: “Here We Go: Finnish Lutheran Bishop and Christian Politician Both Face Trial for Rebuking Homosexuality.”

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