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Finnish parliamentarian Päivi RäsänenADF International

HELSINKI (Alliance Defending Freedom) — Former government minister and sitting Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen will stand trial a third time for her Bible-verse tweet, as confirmed today by the Supreme Court of Finland.

The state prosecutor appealed the case despite the Christian grandmother of 11 being acquitted unanimously of “hate speech” charges before both the Helsinki District Court, and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear that appeal on a date to be set in the future.

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Räsänen, who previously served as Finland’s Minister of the Interior, stands criminally charged for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics, in a 2019 tweet, and in a 2004 pamphlet which she wrote for her church, centred on the biblical text, “male and female He created them.”

The prosecutor has not appealed a third charge based on her appearance on a radio show, making her Court of Appeal acquittal on that charge final. Only the two remaining charges are subject to this latest appeal.

The parliamentarian’s case will again be heard alongside Bishop Juhana Pohjola, who faces charges for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet two decades ago.

Their cases have garnered global media attention, as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat posed to free speech in Finland.

To find out more about the case, and to contribute to Päivi’s legal defence, click HERE. 

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision this morning, Räsänen said she had a “peaceful mind” and is “ready to continue to defend free speech and freedom of religion before the Supreme Court, and if need be, also before the European Court of Human Rights.”

She continued:

In my case the investigation has lasted almost five years, has involved untrue accusations, several long police interrogations totaling more than 13 hours, preparations for court hearings, the District Court hearing, and a hearing in the Court of Appeal. This was not just about my opinions, but about everyone’s freedom of expression. I hope that with the ruling of the Supreme Court, others would not have to undergo the same ordeal. I have considered it a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right in a democratic state.

The prosecution is demanding tens of thousands of Euros in fines and insisting that Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s publications be censored.

‘The process is the punishment’

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, supporting Räsänen’s legal defence said:

This is a watershed case in the story of Europe’s creeping censorship. In a democratic Western nation in 2024, nobody should be on trial for their faith – yet throughout the prosecution of  Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, we have seen something akin to a ‘heresy’ trial, where Christians are dragged through court for holding beliefs that differ from the approved orthodoxy of the day.

The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution after almost five long years, despite such clear and unanimous rulings from the lower courts is alarming. The process is the punishment in such instances, resulting in a chill on free speech for all citizens observing. ADF International will continue to stand alongside Räsänen and Pohjola every step of the way as they face their next day in court. Their right to speak freely is everyone’s right to speak freely.

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, and Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen. [Source: Alliance Defending Freedom]
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Police investigations against Räsänen started in June 2019. As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran church, she had addressed the leadership of her church on Twitter/X and questioned its official sponsorship of the LGBT event “Pride 2019,” accompanied by an image of Bible verses from the New Testament book of Romans. Following this tweet, further investigations against Räsänen were launched, going back to a church pamphlet Räsänen wrote 20 years ago.

Over several months, Räsänen endured a total of 13 hours of police interrogations about her Christian beliefs – including being frequently asked by the police to explain her understanding of the Bible.

The Bible on trial

In April 2021, Finland’s Prosecutor General brought three charges of “agitation against a minority group” against Räsänen. They fall under the “war crimes and crimes against humanity” section in the Finnish criminal code. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola faced two days of trial at the Helsinki District Court on January 24 and February 15, 2022. The Bible was front and centre at the trial as the prosecutor began the day by presenting Bible verses she took issue with.

On March 30, 2022, the Helsinki District Court unanimously acquitted them, stating that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” The prosecution then appealed the “not guilty” ruling in April 2022. The case was then heard by the Helsinki Court of Appeal on August 31–September 1, 2023. On November 14, 2023, the court confirmed Räsänen and Pohjola’s acquittal.

Räsänen has served as a Finnish Member of Parliament since 1995. From 2004-2015 she was chair of the Christian Democrats and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior. During this time, she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland.

Reprinted with permission from the Alliance Defending Freedom.