Jonathon Van Maren

From the front lines of the culture wars


Finnish politician now facing jail for defending biblical view of homosexuality

'I will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected.'
Wed May 5, 2021 - 12:58 pm EST
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Päivi Räsänen ADF International / Video screen grab

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May 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Finnish parliamentarian (and former cabinet minister) Päivi Räsänen has been persecuted by the state for years. As she told me last May in an interview for First Things, the police had interrogated her several times for hours simply for expressing her religious convictions on the sanctity of marriage. In a follow-up interview for LSN in September, Räsänen explained that she had become the subject of four separate criminal investigations. Shockingly, prosecutors have now brought three criminal charges against her. A prominent politician in a Western country has been criminally charged for quoting the Bible on sexuality. It is an unprecedented case, and Räsänen is the canary in the coal mine.

Räsänen is the wife of a Lutheran pastor, the mother of five, and the grandmother of six, and is a medical doctor as well as a politician. According to the Finnish news site YLE, however, she is a potentially dangerous criminal who made statements that the Prosecutor General called “derogatory and discriminatory against homosexuals” which “violate their equality and dignity.” Räsänen’s words, the Prosecutor General went on, “overstep the boundaries of free speech and religion and are likely to fuel intolerance, contempt, and hatred.” Again, the Prosecutor General is referring not to some hate-filled speech or videoed rant—he is referring to Räsänen’s quoting of Scripture.

For that, she faces up to two years in prison. If Räsänen is indeed jailed the impact on religious freedom in Finland and across the Western world would be staggering.

Räsänen, however, has responded by saying that she is privileged to defend Christianity and that she will do so joyfully and at every opportunity. She agreed to an interview to explain what she is being subjected to, and how she is doing. 

Previously, there had been confidence that no charges would be brought against you. What changed?

The Prosecutor General has now had over half a year to go through my final statements and the pre-trial investigation report. The decision to bring three criminal charges against me came as a shock and I did not expect it, although of course I knew it was possible. The Prosecutor General has over this time deliberated on the matter and argues that I deserve to be convicted and punished because I have threatened, insulted and slandered homosexuals. I strongly disagree on that. It did not even come to mind that my tweet or my opinions based on Christianity could be defamatory or insulting in any aspect.

What are the charges brought?

I now face three criminal charges for the same crime: I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group. The three charges filed against me are about the following cases. Firstly, a pamphlet I wrote in 2004 "Male and female He created them - Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.” The second charge is about a tweet I published 17 June 2019 on my social media accounts. In addition to Twitter, I published my tweet on Facebook and Instagram. In the tweet, I questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church's official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019 and accompanied my publication with a photo of the Bible, from the Letter to the Romans 1:24-27. The third charge is about my statement in one program of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, when I appeared on a talk show series hosted by Ruben Stiller and discussed the topic “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”

What is your reaction to these charges?

Being criminally charged for voicing my deeply held beliefs feels unreal. The decision of the Prosecutor General is surprising, even shocking. I do not think I have threatened, defamed or insulted a minority group. In all three cases, the question is about the Bible's teaching about marriage and sexuality. I have constantly said to respect and defend the human dignity and human rights of homosexuals and other minority groups. The Bible's teaching is, however, very clear in the teaching that marriage is a union between man and wife and that homosexual acts are against God's will.

What outcome do you face?

The application for summons has been delivered to the District Court of Helsinki. The date for the trial has not yet been decided, but I will need to give written and oral evidence and arguments. According to our criminal law, this crime carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years.  

What outcome do you expect?

It is likely that this will be a process of several years. I expect this case to go even to the European Court of Human Rights and I am ready to defend free speech and freedom of religion as far as it needs. I will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected.

What can Christians around the world do to help you?

I believe praying is the most important thing we all can do. I want to encourage Christians to use their freedom of speech and religion. This indictment shows that right now is the time to defend these foundational freedoms and rights. The rise of “cancel culture”, the idea of publicly defaming and thrusting a person who holds certain beliefs out of social media or professional circles, is a threat to any free society that claims to be tolerant and equal. Regardless of where we live, we need to be alert and active regarding our rights as Christian citizens.

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What does this case mean for freedom of speech in Finland?

This case is a precedent. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches. Everyone should be free to express their deeply held beliefs about important issues without fear of censorship or criminal sanction. This is especially important for Christians, who are called to lift up Jesus and the Bible. There is a difficulty here far greater than the sentence of a fine or an imprisonment – there is a demand for censorship, an order to remove my social media postings, or a ban on the publication of my pamphlet. This kind of judgement would open up an avenue leading to further publication bans for similar texts and modern book burnings. It is a grave violation of the freedom of religion if the right to agree with biblical teaching is contravened.

  finland, freedom of speech, päivi räsänen, religious liberties

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