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Finnish MP, bishop may be dragged before Supreme Court despite acquittals over 'hate speech' against LGBT pride

Finnish MP, bishop may be dragged before Supreme Court despite acquittals over 'hate speech' against LGBT pride

By Jon Brown, Christian Post Reporter
January 12, 2024

Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen, who served as Finland's interior minister from 2011 to 2015, could see the Supreme Court of Finland overturn her multiple acquittals related to alleged "hate speech" stemming from a 2019 Bible tweet.

The state prosecutor in Finland is appealing the second unanimous acquittal of a Finnish parliamentarian and Lutheran bishop over "hate speech" charges related to their faith-based views on sexuality and gender.

Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen, who served as Finland's interior minister from 2011 to 2015, and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland could potentially be dragged into court again if the Supreme Court of Finland decides to hear the case, according to a press release from their lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International.

The Helsinki Court of Appeal unanimously acquitted Räsänen and Pohjola in November, which followed a similar acquittal by the three-judge District Court of Helsinki in March 2022. The charges against Räsänen began with her 2019 tweet that referenced Bible verses to criticize the Finnish Lutheran Church's promotion of LGBT "pride month."

She also expressed opposition to homosexuality on a radio show that year, and the investigation against her also dredged up a pamphlet she wrote in 2004 titled "Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity."

Pohjola faced charges for having published Räsänen's pamphlet. The prosecutor is demanding the two face tens of thousands of Euros in fines and that their work be censored, according to ADF International.

When it first tossed out the hate crime charges in 2022, the District Court of Helsinki asserted that the government should not be weighing in on "biblical concepts," and the Helsinki Court of Appeal agreed, ruling last fall that it "has no reason, on the basis of the evidence received at the main hearing, to assess the case in any respect differently from the District Court."

When her case was before the court of appeal, the prosecutor took issue with Räsänen's description of homosexuality as "sin," and argued that while she is free to cite the Bible, "it is Räsänen's interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal."

Räsänen, who also led Finland's Christian Democratic Party from 2004 to 2015, is remaining defiant despite her ongoing court battles, which have dragged out for nearly half a decade.

"After my full exoneration in two courts, I'm not afraid of a hearing before the Supreme Court," Räsänen said in a statement. "Even though I am fully aware that every trial carries risks, an acquittal from the Supreme Court would set an even stronger positive precedent for everyone's right to free speech and religion."

"And if the Court decided to overturn the lower courts' acquittals, I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary," she added.

Räsänen's legal counsel is arguing that she is effectively being punished by the drawn-out legal process.

"The state's insistence on continuing this prosecution despite such a clear and unanimous ruling by both the Helsinki District Court and Court of Appeal is alarming," ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman said in a statement.

"Dragging people through the courts for years, subjecting them to hour-long police interrogations, and wasting taxpayer money in order to police people's deeply held beliefs has no place in a democratic society. As is so often the case in "hate speech" trials, the process has become of the punishment," he added.

When authorities first opened their investigation against her in 2019, Räsänen was subjected to 13 hours of interrogation over the course of several months before Finland's prosecutor general slapped her in April 2021 with three charges of "agitation against a minority group," according to ADF.

The charges fall under the umbrella of the "war crimes and crimes against humanity" section in Finnish law.

During an interview with The Christian Post shortly before her participation in the 2022 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., Räsänen noted free speech appears to be evaporating not just in Finland, but in most Western, post-Christian nations.

"We all are sinners and we need Jesus. But now, I think there is a heavy hatred against Christian values in our society," she told CP at the time. "If you speak about gender issues -- that there are two genders or that marriage belongs to one woman and one man -- it arouses hatred against you in our society."

Explaining how she "never thought" she would ever be prosecuted for expressing traditional Christian views of marriage and sexuality, she said, "Nothing has changed in my faith and in my conviction, but suddenly I was like a criminal because of this hate."

"The world has changed," she added. "I think that my conviction has not changed but the world has changed very [quickly] in Finland and I think that also in other Western countries, post-Christian countries."

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