A Finnish politician who was investigated for questioning her church denomination's support of a gay pride even is facing a second police interview. This time, Päivi Räsänen will be interviewed about a pamphlet she wrote over 16 years ago on human sexuality for a Christian foundation. The investigation, which has garnered headlines across the world, stemmed from a tweet Räsänen sent in June of last year in which she criticised the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland's (ELCF) participation in the Helsinki LGBT Pride events.
"How can the church's doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?" she wrote at the time.
After attending a lengthy police interview in Novermber 2019, it was understood that the police had dropped the investigation. Now, prosecutors are opening it up once again and Räsänen is set to be interviewed by police on Monday, March 2nd.
Responding to the investigation, the politician told religious freedom group ADF International: "I never thought I would face a criminal investigation for sharing my deeply held beliefs. It came as a total surprise. As a Christian and a democratically elected Member of Parliament, I have often heard things with which I disagree – sometimes very strongly. At times, I have felt insulted. I believe the best response to this is more debate, not censorship.
"These police investigations raise concerns about limiting the freedoms that have been guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human right treaties. A major threat for freedom of religion and free speech is that we don’t make use of these rights. I hope these criminal investigations won’t lead to self-censorship among Christians. I am going to use my rights regardless of the police investigation. I encourage others to do the same.”
It is thought that police are investigating whether or not the politician has violated the country's “ethnic agitation" law through her remarks and writings. If charged and found guilty of breaking this so-called hate speech law, she could face a two-year prison sentence.
ADF -a leading law firm specialising in cases of free speech and religious freedom - is supporting Räsänen with her defense.
Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, said: “In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. This is the foundation of every free and democratic society. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies. These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming all too common throughout Europe."
Lorcan Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International and part of the team supporting her case, added: “The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that the right to freedom of expression does not protect merely popular ideas, but also those that challenge the status quo.
"You can support Mrs. Räsänen’s freedom of speech whether you agree with her positions or not. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to those with whom we disagree. Tolerance is a two-way street. Driving people with different beliefs out of the public square is not only a violation of the rights protected in international and European law, but leaves our societies all the poorer for it.”