Christian MP Päivi Räsänen ready to defend free speech again as Finnish prosecutors file appeal

Päivi Räsänen
Päivi Räsänen | Courtesy of ADF

Finnish Christian politician Päivi Räsänen says she is ready to defend freedom of speech and religion again as public prosecutors have announced they will appeal her legal victory in a lawsuit in which she faced the possibility of six years in prison for sharing her deeply held biblical beliefs on sexuality and marriage.

Finland’s public prosecutors announced last week that they will appeal the March 30 verdict by the Helsinki District Court, which threw out the charges against Räsänen, a member of Parliament from the Christian Democratic Party, who says her lawyers are ready to respond to it.

“I had hoped that the prosecutors would have settled for this ruling … [But] I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts, also in the European Court of Human Rights,” Räsänen, former minister of the Interior, told Christian Today in an interview.

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She says her case is “important for Bible-believing Christians, but also more widely for freedom of speech.”

“The ruling gives a very solid and good foundation to defend our foundational rights in the Court of Appeal,” she continued, explaining that vague “hate speech” laws would be targeted against Christians.

“It is important to remember that there is no universally agreed definition of ‘hate speech,’” she said. “Nobody knows exactly what it is. If hate speech was in our legislation, there would be a great risk that it limited our freedoms.”

In its verdict in favor of Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, a three-judge panel on the Helsinki District Court determined that the government should not be interpreting “biblical concepts.”

The court reasoned that statements made by the former interior minister didn’t constitute hate speech even though they might have offended members of the LGBT community. 

The court ordered the prosecution to pay the legal costs associated with the trial.

Räsänen and Pohjola faced prosecution for their roles in creating and publishing a 2004 pamphlet titled Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.

The indictment accused Räsänen and Pohjola of incitement to hatred against a group. The bishop explained at a press conference last year that the charges fall under the section of “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” He said they were accused of sharing “opinions and allegations defaming and insulting homosexuals as a group based on their sexual orientation.”

In addition to the pamphlet, Räsänen faced criminal charges for a 2019 tweet criticizing the leadership of the Finnish Lutheran Church for supporting LGBT pride month and sharing her beliefs about homosexuality in a radio show appearance that same year.

Alliance Defending Freedom International is representing Pohjola and Räsänen.

Paul Coleman, the executive director of ADF International, praised the court’s ruling as “an important decision, which upholds the fundamental right to freedom of speech in Finland.”

He described the ability for people to “share their beliefs without fear of censorship” as “the foundation of every free and democratic society.”

In the interview, Räsänen encouraged “others to speak publicly about the Gospel and express their faith.”

“I encourage Christians to lobby the MPs and other decision-makers, both at the national and international level, and raise awareness about the dangers of censorship and cancel culture, which are threats to any democracy,” she said, warning, “Otherwise, the space for speaking will eventually become even smaller. The more we keep silent, the more the risk to laws aiming to limit free speech will increase.”

The Christian politician earlier said her writings and statements “are all linked to the Bible’s teaching on marriage, living as a man and a woman, as well as the Apostle Paul’s teaching on sin.”

“The points of view over which I stood accused do not deviate from so-called classical Christianity and nor does my view on marriage deviate from the official policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland,” she noted.

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