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World News

Evangelical body 'dismayed' at charges which could see Finnish MP jailed for tweeting Bible verse on homosexuality

The European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) is urging the Finnish government to respect religious freedom after MP Päivi Räsänen was charged with inciting hatred for expressing biblical views on marriage and sexuality. 

In 2019, Räsänen posted a tweet criticising the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland for participating in a local gay pride event together with a picture of Romans 1: 24-27, a verse that describes homosexuality as shameful.  

In a letter, the General Secretary of the EEA, Thomas Bucher, said he is "dismayed" at Räsänen's situation and believes that "foundational issues of freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression are both at stake". 

Räsänen has also been charged for comments she made about traditional views on sex in a booklet in 2004 and on TV in 2018. Räsänen is now facing several years in prison. 

Last month, Finland's prosecutor general said the MP's actions and statements were insulting and had harmed the dignity of gay people. 

The EEA argues that the UN's Rabat Plan of Action, a check to determine whether a statement is inciting to hatred, was not breached in any of the three situations for which the MP is on trial. 

"In all three situations for which she stands trial, Päivi Räsänen's actions do not cross the Rabat threshold for hate speech. The context, content and form of her words were fine.  There is no hint of intent, likelihood or imminence of acts of hatred happening. The only thing one could say is that, as a public figure, Mrs Räsänen's words have reach. But there is obviously no problem in having reach when the content, form and context were all fine," the statement continued. 

It went on to urge the Finnish court to defend freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief. 

"We urge the Finnish government to make clear its unequivocal support for these fundamental freedoms and the Rabat Plan of Action's threshold for hate speech," the statement concluded. 

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