A prosecutor in Finland plans to appeal a recent ruling that Päivi Räsänen, a member of the parliament in Finland, is not guilty of hate speech for quoting the Bible to defend her views.
In a huge pro-life free speech victory in March, a court ruled in a pro-life lawmaker’s favor. Räsänen could have been sent to prison for six years for expressing her Christian beliefs publicly after she was accused of using “hate speech.” She is widely known for defending conservative Christian views and speaking out against abortion and euthanasia.
The court’s ruling took the prosecutor to task for trying to criminalize straightforward beliefs based on widely shared Christian views, even if some might object to them: “It is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.”
Räsänen was facing three criminal charges for alleged “hate speech” for comments that she made during news interviews and online. Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola was also charged in the case with the same alleged hate crimes.
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.
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But now the prosecutor is planning to appeal the decision.
“Despite the police previously concluding that no crime had been committed, the Prosecutor General re-opened the file,” ADF International responded.
Last week, the Finnish prosecutor announced she would appeal Räsänen and Pohjola’s acquittal.
Since 2019, activist prosecutors in the Finnish legal system have systematically targeted Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola for their public confession of their deeply held religious beliefs.
The Finnish general prosecutor has accused Räsänen of three counts of “ethnic agitation”: the first for a tweet directed at the Evangelical Lutheran Church for their sponsorship of Helsinki Pride 2019 and containing a picture of a Bible quote, the second based on a 2019 radio debate, and the third for a 17-year-old pamphlet describing her Christian views on marriage and sexuality.
The prosecutor charged the bishop with “hate speech” merely for publishing the “controversial” booklet online. The court threw out each of these charges, again unanimously.
Congressman Chip Roy of Texas condemns the decision to appeal the ruling.
“The prosecutor’s decision to appeal the case is not only absurd. It paints a clear picture of what is to come for people of faith if the West continues barreling down a path that is increasingly hostile to free speech and, especially evident in this case, Christian belief,” he says. “Opponents of freedom of speech and religion never shy away from an opportunity to silence debate and snuff out open discussion, which are the foundations of a free society. Increasingly, they use whatever tools are at their disposal to harass those who simply disagree with them.”
Räsänen’s 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?”
“I had hoped that the prosecutor would have settled for this ruling, but today afternoon I heard that the prosecutors will very likely appeal to the Court of Appeal. I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts, also in the European Court of Human Rights. I want to encourage others to use these basic rights also,” she said.
The pro-life lawmaker 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.”
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.”