Finnish Appeals Court Hears Case on Parliament Member’s Biblical Beliefs

Finnish Appeals Court Hears Case on Parliament Member’s Biblical Beliefs

The Helsinki Court of Appeal has concluded a two-day hearing in the case of Päivi Räsänen, a longstanding member of Parliament who has been charged with “agitation against a minority group” because of a tweet, a church pamphlet and comments on a radio program that embraced the Biblical view of marriage and sexuality.

In 2019, Räsänen—a medical doctor and mother of five—posted a tweet in which she asked the leadership of her church why they would sponsor the Helsinki Pride parade, and she attached a photo with verses from Romans 1. Years earlier in 2004, she had written a pamphlet on marriage and sexuality titled “Male and Female He Created Them.” And during a radio program, she also upheld the Biblical view of marriage and sexuality.

As a result, police began a lengthy investigation that included interrogating Räsänen for a total of 13 hours about her religious views. Finland’s prosecutor general charged Räsänen, along with Bishop Juhana Pohjola, who published the 2004 pamphlet, with three crimes under the section of the Finnish Criminal Code titled “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.”

Last March, a district court unanimously acquitted Räsänen and Pohjola, but the prosecutor appealed the verdict.

At the appeals court Aug. 31, the prosecutor stated that “the authors of the Bible are not indicted” but said those who interpret the Bible literally are. “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal,” the prosecutor said.

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, which is backing Räsänen’s legal defense, said: “The gist of the State prosecutor’s examination of Päivi was this: Would she recant her beliefs? The answer was no—she will not deny the teachings of her faith. Dragging an individual through a grueling criminal trial simply for expressing their religious beliefs is not a marker of democracy and ‘progress.’”

In a press conference after the trial, Räsänen said: “It has been a long two days at the court of appeals. When I was voted into Parliament in 1995, I expected that I would face many challenges. But I never would imagine that I would face a criminal trial for posting a Bible verse and sharing my Christian convictions online.”

She added, “We will soon know if the expression of my Christian beliefs is considered a criminal act in modern-day Finland.”

The court is expected to deliver a verdict by Nov. 30.

Photo: Courtesy of ADF International

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