In a case that has attracted international attention because of its free speech and human rights implications, a Finnish grandmother and member of Parliament has been acquitted by a court in Helsinki of “hate crime” charges stemming from her quoting the Bible concerning homosexuality.
The prosecution began after a 2019 tweet and radio interview in which 62-year-old Päivi Räsänen, who is also a medical doctor, shared her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics. In its investigation, the government even dug up a 2004 pamphlet Räsänen wrote for her church about what the Bible says about homosexuality and prosecuted both her and the Lutheran bishop who published it.
The Finnish trial court unanimously acquitted the pair and ordered the prosecution to pay more than 60,000 euros in legal costs for the two defendants. They had faced up to two years in prison or a fine if convicted.
The prosecutors have seven days to appeal the trial court’s ruling, and Räsänen says she has learned they very likely will, according to CBN News.
“In all the charges, I deny any wrongdoing. My writings and statements under investigation are linked to the Bible’s teachings on marriage, living as a man and a woman, as well as the Apostle Paul’s teaching on homosexual acts,” Räsänen said in a February 17 press release. “The teachings concerning marriage and sexuality in the Bible arise from love to one’s neighbor. This case is about whether it is allowed in Finland to cite the Bible and to agree with it in topics that go against the tide and challenge the current ethos and thinking.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, to which Räsänen belongs, is one of two national churches recognized in Finland.
Her 2019 tweet and radio broadcast questioned why the Evangelical Lutheran Church was officially supporting Finland’s Gay Pride week. “In my tweet, I directly cited Romans first chapter and verses 24 to 27 and posted the picture of the passages from the Bible,” Räsänen told CBN News in a 2019 interview.
Räsänen and the bishop are represented by attorney Paul Coleman with ADF International.
“We welcome the Helsinki District Court’s ruling,” Coleman said in a press release. “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. 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.”
Finland’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and conscience, as well as the freedom of expression.
Räsänen has been a member of the Finnish Parliament since 1995, and even served as the country’s Minister of the Interior from 2011-2015. Her case has attracted the support of several U.S. senators, the UK Parliament, and religious denominations from all over the world.
Photo from ADF.