Finnish MP and former government minister Päivi Räsänen has stood trial for a second time on charges of “hate speech” over Bible verses she posted on social media.
The latest trial, before the Helsinki Court of Appeal, involved three expressions of her Christian faith – in a tweet, in a church pamphlet nearly 20 years ago, and in a 2019 radio interview.
She’s accused under the “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity” in Finland, for “agitation against a minority group”.
“I’m hopeful that all these charges will be acquitted. It’s a very important verdict for freedom of speech and of religion and Finland, and also has consequences across Europe, but I’m hopeful for a good result,” Räsänen said, as she left the court.
Räsänen’s tweet, challenged her Church leadership for sponsoring a Pride event, and included a picture of a Bible verse from Romans.
In her opening statement, the prosecutor said she wasn’t putting God in the dock: “the authors of the Bible are not on trial” today, but rather those who interpret what it says: “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.”
When asked if she would be willing to update or remove what she had said about marriage and sexuality in her 2004 church pamphlet, titled “Male & Female He Created Them”, Päivi Räsänen said – effectively - no.
Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International who are backing Päivi’s legal defense said: “The gist of the State prosecutor’s examination of Päivi was this: would she recant her beliefs? The answer was no – she will not deny the teachings of her faith. Dragging an individual through a grueling criminal trial simply for expressing their religious beliefs is not a marker of democracy and “progress” . We will continue to stand with Päivi and await the decision of the court as to whether expressing Biblical teaching is really a crime in Finland,”
The prosecution argues that Räsänen should have known that her words could be offensive to certain people and therefore refrained from speaking. What matters, they said, is not whether what she had written was “true”; what mattered was that it was “insulting”.
Räsänen’s defence team, co-ordinated by ADF International, are defending her on the basis of freedom of speech which is protected under international law, as well as in Finland. They claim the use of the word “sin” in Rasanen’s tweet – which the prosecution said was unlawful - was quoted directly from the Bible, and condemning its usage would condemn the Bible itself.
The court is expected to deliver a verdict by November 30th.