Featured Image
Finnish lawmaker Päivi RäsänenYouTube/Screenshot

Send an urgent message to Canadian legislators and courts telling them to uphold parental rights

HELSINKI (LifeSiteNews) — The Helsinki Court of Appeal has found Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola not guilty of “hate speech” for upholding the biblical view on marriage and sexuality. 

“I am deeply relieved. The court has fully endorsed and upheld the district court’s decision, which recognized everyone’s right to free speech,” Räsänen said after the verdict. 

Räsänen was charged with “agitation against a minority group” in 2021 for sharing her biblical beliefs on marriage and sexuality. In a 2019 tweet that included a verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in which homosexual acts are condemned, the former Finnish Interior Minister criticized the Lutheran Church of Finland for participating in an LGBT “Pride” parade. She was also charged for expressing her views in a 2019 radio debate, and in a 2004 church pamphlet called “Male & Female He Created Them.” The Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola was charged over his publication of the 2004 pamphlet. 

Räsänen and Pohjola were unanimously acquitted by a Finnish District Court in March 2022, but the prosecution appealed the decision. On November 14, the Court of Appeal upheld the 2022 acquittal in a unanimous decision, finding “no reason, on the basis of the evidence received at the main hearing, to assess the case in any respect differently from the District Court. There is therefore no reason to alter the final result of the District Court’s judgment.”   

READ: Finnish prosecutor appeals acquittal of MP, Lutheran bishop who defended Christian marriage 

According to ADF International, a Christian human rights group representing the Finnish defendants, the prosecution can make one last appeal to the Supreme Court until January 15, 2024. 

“It isn’t a crime to tweet a Bible verse, or to engage in public discourse with a Christian perspective,” Räsänen said after her acquittal. “The attempts made to prosecute me for expressing my beliefs have resulted in an immensely trying four years, but my hope is that the result will stand as a key precedent to protect the human right to free speech. I sincerely hope other innocent people will be spared the same ordeal for simply voicing their convictions.” 

Finnish prosecutor: There are ‘criminal’ interpretations of the Bible 

In the opening statements of the appeal trial on August 31, Finnish prosecutor Anu Mantila stated, “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.” 

ADF International reports that the prosecution attacked Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s theology throughout the cross-examination, asking them if they would renounce or “update” what they have said about marriage and sexuality. 

“At the heart of the prosecutor’s examination of Räsänen was this: would she recant her beliefs? The answer was no – she would not deny the teachings of her faith. The cross-examination bore all the resemblance of a ‘heresy’ trial of the Middle Ages; it was implied that Räsänen had ‘blasphemed’ against the dominant orthodoxies of the day,” said Räsänen’s lawyer Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International. 

The prosecutor argued that the Finnish MP should have known that her words may be offensive to certain people, and she should therefore refrain from expressing her beliefs. “The point isn’t whether it is true or not but that it is insulting,” she said. 

The Court of Appeal upheld the District Court’s ruling, which found that “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.” The District Court had found no such reason, stating that “it is not for the District Court to interpret biblical concepts.” 

Send an urgent message to Canadian legislators and courts telling them to uphold parental rights