A Finnish appeals court dismissed all criminal charges against Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen and Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola for stating and publishing Christian beliefs about marriage and sexual ethics.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom International, a faith-based legal advocacy organization:
Räsänen, Finland’s former Interior Minister, was formally charged with “agitation against a minority group” in 2021 under a section of the Finnish criminal code titled “war crimes and crimes against humanity” for sharing her Christian beliefs on marriage and sexual ethics in a 2019 tweet, as well as a 2019 live radio debate and 2004 church pamphlet.
Bishop Pohjola was charged for publishing Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet.
“The case has garnered global media attention as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat posed to free speech,” ADF International added in its announcement of the decision. Räsänen’s tweet shows a Bible open to Romans 1: 24-27.
#kirkko on ilmoittanut olevansa #seta n #Pride2019 virallinen partneri. Miten kirkon oppiperusta, #raamattu sopii yhteen sen kanssa, että häpeä ja synti nostetaan ylpeyden aiheeksi? pic.twitter.com/cnjAQCrOc2
— Päivi Räsänen (@PaiviRasanen) June 17, 2019
Räsänen is a Christian medical doctor, a member of the Finnish Parliament since 1995 and the grandmother of eleven. She stated her gratitude for the decision, which was her second acquittal by a Finnish court:
I am deeply relieved. The court has fully endorsed and upheld the decision of the district court, which recognized everyone’s right to free speech.
It isn’t a crime to tweet a Bible verse or to engage in public discourse with a Christian perspective. The attempts made to prosecute me for expressing my beliefs have resulted in an immensely trying four years, but my hope is that the result will stand as a key precedent to protect the human right to free speech. I sincerely hope other innocent people will be spared the same ordeal for simply voicing their convictions.
Finland introduced “registered partnerships” for same-sex couples in 2001, allowed a person to adopt a partner’s child in 2009, and legalized same-sex marriage in 2017.
At the same time, the country’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and conscience, as well as the freedom of expression.
Räsänen wrote the contested pamphlet in 2004, which Bishop Pohjola published. It is titled, “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.”
In it, Räsänen explains:
A change in the foundations of the family is not a socially insignificant issue. The change does not only affect a few couples, but profoundly affects society as a whole. In fact, it is difficult to come up with a social undertaking that strikes as much at the heart of the foundations of society as does the same-sex partnership. …
Marriage is the oldest contract in human history. It remains the most important legal contract in society. By its very essence and by the order of creation, marriage is a union between an adult man and an adult woman.
Heterosexual marriage comprises the richness and the core of sexuality – the tension arising from the difference between a man and a woman, and the theoretical possibility of having children together. These are lacking in homosexual relationships and other sexual anomalies.
The pamphlet goes on to explain that no one is “born gay” and that people can and do leave homosexuality and move toward heterosexuality. She also states that homosexual partnerships are “a question of values, not a question of human rights.”
Räsänen writes that children need both a mother and a father, explaining. “Gender-neutral parenting is no substitute for the motherhood and fatherhood that is in accord with the order of creation.”
She quotes Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, but ultimately, Räsänen offers gospel hope and grace for those caught in homosexual sin:
In congregations there needs to be more room and love for people who are hurt by homosexual emotional lives or other sexual anomalies. The message of grace belongs to all sinners and all broken people. There is no one in the world whose masculinity or femininity would be perfect and intact.
ADF International said “the prosecution attacked core Christian teachings” and cross-examined Räsänen and the Bishop about their beliefs:
In her opening statement at the August 31st appeal trial, Finnish State prosecutor, Anu Mantila, claimed that, “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.”
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, stated:
At the heart of the prosecutor’s examination of Räsänen was this: Would she recant her beliefs? The answer was no – she would not deny the teachings of her faith. The cross-examination bore all the resemblance of a “heresy” trial of the middle ages; it was implied that Räsänen had “blasphemed” against the dominant orthodoxies of the day.
ADF International said that the prosecution could continue to pursue the case, despite this acquittal:
The Court has ordered the prosecution to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to cover costs incurred by both defendants. The prosecution could appeal a final time to the Supreme Court, with a deadline of 15 January 2024.
The case is an important international victory for freedom of speech and religious liberty. Kudos to Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola for remaining faithful to foundational Christian truths about marriage, family and salvation through faith in Christ.
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Image from ADF International.