Free speech victory: Finnish lawmaker on trial for quoting Bible verses acquitted in landmark case

Päivi Maria Räsänen was accused of inciting homophobia due to quoting the Bible and stating that marriage was a union between a man and a woman

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
Päivi Maria Räsänen, source: Wikipedia.

A Helsinki court has dismissed all charges against former Finnish minister Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran bishop Juhan Pohjoli in a trial portrayed as a major litmus test for freedom of speech that garnered international attention.

The court unanimously declared in a statement on March 30 that it “was not the district court’s duty to interpret biblical terms.”  If some found her statements offensive, the 29-page court verdict read “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.”

It stated that Räsänen was trying to “defend the concept of family and marriage between man and woman” and ordered the Finnish state to cover the costs of the legal defense which amounted to over €60,000.

“I am very thankful that the court acknowledged the threat to freedom of speech and ruled in our favor. I feel as if a burden has been taken off my shoulder. Although I am grateful for the opportunity to defend freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help others avoid going through the same trial,” Räsänen said after the verdict.

Räsänen, who is a mother of five, came under fire after she openly criticized the Finnish Lutheran Church for supporting LGBT ideology and the Pride Parade in Helsinki. She was accused of insulting the LGBT minority and was criticized for her book which promoted the Christian version of a family. The third accusation concerned Räsänen quoting the Bible in Finnish television and a Twitter post from 2019.

In her posts, Räsänen included a photo of the Bible passage Romans Chapter one, verses 24-27, which condemns homosexuality as a sin.

During the first trial, the Finnish politician explained that her vision of marriage stemmed from her Christian faith which proclaims that marriage can only be a union between man and woman, as taught by the Bible. She emphasized that such views did not stem from hatred towards anyone.

The Finnish prosecutor general had declared at the time that “whoever criticized the conduct of homosexuals was intentionally provoking hatred towards homosexual persons.”

The International Lutheran Council labeled the decision to prosecute Räsänen and Pohjola as “egregious.” Their statement read: “The vast majority of Christians in all nations, including Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, share these convictions. Would the Finnish Prosecutor General condemn us all? Moreover, shall the Finnish state risk governmental sanctions from other states based on the abuse of foundational human rights?”

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