Finnish Parliament member Päivi Räsänen carried her Bible into the Helsinki District Court Jan. 24 as her trial commenced on three counts of “ethnic agitation” for expressing her Biblical beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
“I am honored to be defending freedom of speech and religion,” Räsänen told media outside the court building. “I hope that today it can become clear that I have no wish to offend any group of people, but this is a question of saving people for eternal life.”
The three charges stem from a 2019 tweet that Räsänen 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.
If convicted, Räsänen could be fined or serve up to two years in prison.
“Now it is time to speak,” she said ahead of the trial. “Because the more we are silent, the narrower the space for freedom of speech and religion grows. If I’m convicted, I think that the worst consequence would not be the fine against me, or even the prison sentence, it would be the censorship.
“I will continue to stand for what I believe and what I have written,” Räsänen continued. “And I will speak and write about these things, because they are a matter of conviction, not only an opinion. I trust that we still live in a democracy, and we have our constitution and international agreements that guarantee our freedom of speech and religion.”
ADF International, a faith-based legal advocacy organization that specializes in religious liberty cases, is representing Räsänen.
“In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship,” said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International. “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. These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming all too common throughout Europe. We hope and trust the Helsinki District Court will uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech and acquit Päivi Räsänen of these outrageous charges.”
Ahead of trial, Räsänen’s lawyers had asked the court to dismiss the charge based on her tweet, arguing that the European Convention of Human Rights guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The court denied the request before proceedings began.
A final decision on all three charges is expected at a later date.
Photo: Ilkka Kontturi