04/06/2022 Finland (International Christian Concern) — On March 30, Finland’s former Minister of the Interior, a current member of Parliament, and outspoken Christian, Dr. Päivi Räsänen, was cleared of all charges in her hate speech trial. Three years ago, Dr. Räsänen and Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola were charged after Bishop Juhana published a pamphlet written by Dr. Räsänen on the Biblical view of marriage and sexuality. Now, they have been cleared of all criminal charges.
“I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favor,” Dr. Räsänen following the verdict. “I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted. Although I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal.”
Dr. Räsänen is no stranger to the government of her native Finland. She has served as a representative in her country’s parliament since 1995, chair of the Finnish Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015, and the country’s Minister of the Interior from 2011 to 2015. In addition, she is a medical doctor, mother, grandmother, and wife of a Lutheran pastor.
She has also written several books, including a pamphlet entitled “Male and Female He Created Them” in 2004 that marked the beginning of her case. In it, she made the biblical case for a traditional understanding of marriage and gender identity. She described the pamphlet as laying out, “the Bible’s teachings on marriage, living as a man and a woman, as well as the Apostle Paul’s teaching on homosexual acts.”
But what first caught the eyes of Finland’s prosecutors was a tweet from 2019. That year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland (ELCF) sponsored a local gay pride event. Dr. Räsänen then tweeted a picture of a Bible open to Romans 1:24-27 with the caption, “How can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?”
This tweet kicked off an investigation by Finland’s Prosecutor General, looking into whether Dr. Räsänen had committed a “hate crime” with her tweet and her 2004 pamphlet. She was interrogated at length twice in 2019 and then three more times in 2020 by the police for statements she made during interviews defending her belief in Biblical marriage and sexuality. In 2020, Dr. Räsänen said the investigations “have to do with whether it is legal to publicly confess and teach Bible-based views on man’s relationship with God. I will defend my right to confess my faith so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.”
In March 2021, the Prosecutor General officially filed three charges for hate speech against Dr. Räsänen and one charge against Bishop Pohjola, who published Dr. Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet. The trial officially began in January 2022, and on March 30, the court cleared her and the bishop of all charges, saying in its decision, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression,” of which it found none in the case.
Dr. Räsänen received support from all around the world during her trial, from faith leaders and denominations raising awareness about her cause, to protests at Finnish embassies by Christians across the globe, to members of the US Congress and British Parliament raising concerns over the consequences of the hate speech trial.
Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern, interviewed Dr. Räsänen last year regarding her case and celebrated the recent decision to drop her charges. “We welcome the recent decision from the Helsinki District Court to drop all charges against Dr. Räsänen. Christians worldwide ought to have the freedom to discuss their faith openly without fear of punishment from the government. We will continue to pray for Dr. Räsänen and the promotion of religious freedom around the world.”
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