A Finnish grandmother could be sent to prison for six years for expressing her Christian beliefs publicly.
Päivi Räsänen is a member of parliament in Finland, a former Minister of the Interior, a medical doctor, grandmother and a strong Christian. She is widely known for defending conservative Christian views and speaking out against abortion and euthanasia.
Now, however, Räsänen is facing three criminal charges for alleged “hate speech” for comments that she made during news interviews and online, Christianity Daily reports. If convicted, her lawyers said she could face up to six years in prison.
Räsänen said she will not back down or be intimidated, and she hopes her legal battle will help ensure that no one is deprived of their freedom of speech.
“I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment,” she said in a statement. “I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone. My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.”
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ADF International, which represents her, said authorities accused her of “hate speech” for publicly voicing her opinion on marriage and human sexuality in a 2004 pamphlet, her comments on a 2018 TV show and a 2019 tweet criticizing her church leaders’ decision to support a “Pride” celebration. She is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
“Despite the police previously concluding that no crime had been committed, the Prosecutor General re-opened the file,” ADF International responded.
Her lawyers said she attended several lengthy interviews with police about her views in 2019, and then waited more than a year before the General Prosecutor decided to continue prosecution.
On March 5, 2020, she learned that the Prosecutor General had launched two more investigations against her, her lawyers said. One is about her comments discussing her faith and religious issues on a TV show in 2018 called, “Yökylässä Maria Veitola.” The other involves a December 2019 radio interview that she participated in; the topic was “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said cases like Räsänen’s are becoming all too common throughout Europe.
“If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely,” Coleman said.
Räsänen said she will not remain silent or allow the government to censor her.
“I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith,” she said. “The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.”