In a unanimous ruling, the Helsinki District Court in Finland has dismissed all charges against Parliament Member Päivi Räsänen.
Räsänen faced three counts of “ethnic agitation” stemming from a 2019 tweet that she posted in which she questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s support of the Helsinki LGBT Pride event, while including a photo of Romans 1:24-27; a 2018 radio interview in which she discussed what Jesus would think about homosexuality; and a 2004 pamphlet she wrote titled, “Male and Female He Created Them—Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity,” explaining that God designed marriage for one man and one woman.
According to legal advocacy organization ADF International, which supported Räsänen’s defense, the court ruled that while some may object to Räsänen’s statements, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.” The court concluded there was no such justification.
“It should never have gone this far, but a jury in Finland has confirmed what we all knew—MP Päivi Räsänen … enjoy[s] a freedom of speech which includes religious speech,” tweeted Sam Brownback, who served the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018 to 2021. “It is a scandal that this case was prosecuted in the first place.”
Following the announcement of the ruling, Räsänen expressed gratitude that the court ruled in favor of free speech.
“I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted,” she said. “Although I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal.”
But Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a commissioner with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, cautioned that threats to free speech and religious liberty are likely to increase, not decrease.
“In this victory for Päivi and free speech is a warning about the rise of authoritarian governments in the West targeting Christians for living according to Biblical truth,” he posted on Twitter.
The National Committee for Religious Freedom offered similar sentiments.
“While we celebrate the not guilty verdict … we also remain on guard against such state-sponsored persecution in America. This should never have gone to trial.”
Photo: Courtesy of ADF International