Christian charged with ‘hate crime’ for sharing Bible passage is headed to Finnish Supreme Court for final showdown

Christian charged with ‘hate crime’ for sharing Bible passage is headed to Finnish Supreme Court for final showdown

The Finnish state spent years trying to punish a Christian parliamentarian for publicly expressing her biblically informed views on marriage and sexuality. Dr. Päivi Räsänen stood firm, fought back, and won.

Despite three judges admitting that the hate crime charges leveled against her were baseless and an appeals court later concurring, the state prosecutor appealed the latest unanimous acquittal, desperate to make an example out of the high-profile dissenter.

Räsänen is now headed for a showdown before the Nordic nation’s supreme court — to find out whether inconvenient scriptural passages and Christian belief are still legal in Finland.

Bible on trial
Dr. Päivi Räsänen is a devout Christian, a medical doctor, a grandmother, and a Finnish parliamentarian. She previously served as the country’s minister of the interior.

Throughout her career, Räsänen has been open and unapologetic about her orthodox religious views concerning life and morality, especially with regards to marriage, sex, and abortion. Her outlook and intellectual consistency have made her a popular target for leftists in and outside the government.

On June 17, 2019, Räsänen drew the ire of LGBT activists by posting a photo of Romans 1:24-27 online in reference to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s official participation in the Helsinki Pride event.

The offending passage the parliamentarian shared from the New Testament states in English, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”

The parliamentarian accompanied the photo with the following note, “How does the doctrine of the church, #raamattu agree with the fact that shame and sin are raised as a matter of pride?”

Police subsequently launched an investigation into the Christian lawmaker.

Räsänen was charged under a section of the Finnish criminal code titled “war crimes and crimes against humanity” and slapped with three counts of incitement against a minority group, reported Yle.

“I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting any group of people. These are all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality,” she said shortly after being indicted.

Extra to charging Räsänen for quoting Scripture online and elsewhere expressing traditional views, prosecutors charged the parliamentarian along with Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission over a 2004 pamphlet they collaborated on entitled, “Male and Female He Created Them.”

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In March 2022, three judges in the District Court of Helsinki reportedly ruled that all of the charges against Räsänen were baseless, noting the “speeches were partly offensive, but not hate speech.”

State prosecutor Anu Mantila clearly had failed to win over the court with the argument that the parliamentarian is permitted to “believe in her mind whatever about the Bible, but it is illegal to express it outwardly.”

The state appealed the decision, this time landing Räsänen in the Helsinki Court of Appeal in August 2023.

The heresiarch of Helsinki
This time around, Mantila argued, “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal,” reported the Christian advocacy group ADF International, which aided in the parliamentarian’s legal defense.

Mantila also asked Räsänen multiple times during her cross-examination whether she would now be willing to update or alter her comments about marriage and sexuality, particularly those in her 2004 church pamphlet.

ADF International executive director Paul Coleman noted, “At the heart of the prosecutor’s examination of Räsänen was this: would she recant her beliefs? The answer was no — she would not deny the teachings of her faith. The cross-examination bore all the resemblance of a ‘heresy’ trial of the middle ages; it was implied that Räsänen had ‘blasphemed’ against the dominant orthodoxies of the day.”

The appellate court ruled unanimously in November to uphold the district court’s unanimous acquittal, finding that it had “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. There is therefore no reason to alter the final result of the District Court’s judgment.”

The appellate court ordered the prosecution to cover the legal costs incurred by Räsänen and Pohjola. The court gave the prosecution until January 2024 to exhaust the last of its options — an appeal to the Finnish Supreme Court.

The final showdown
The Finnish Supreme Court granted the state prosecutor permission Friday to appeal the unanimous judgment of the Helsinki Court of Appeal, meaning Räsänen will now stand trial a third time.

AFD International indicated the state prosecutor only appealed the lesser courts’ decisions on two of the previous three charges, namely those regarding the scriptural tweet and the pro-marriage 2004 pamphlet. Bishop Juhana Pohjola will similarly be standing trial for publishing the pamphlet.

Räsänen said in a statement that she has a “peaceful mind” and is “ready to continue to defend free speech and freedom of religion before the Supreme Court, and if need be, also before the European Court of Human Rights.”

“In my case the investigation has lasted almost five years, has involved untrue accusations, several long police interrogations totaling more than 13 hours, preparations for court hearings, the District Court hearing, and a hearing in the Court of Appeal,” said the Christian parliamentarian. “This was not just about my opinions, but about everyone’s freedom of expression. I hope that with the ruling of the Supreme Court, others would not have to undergo the same ordeal. I have considered it a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right in a democratic state.”

The prosecution wants to hammer the defendants with massive fines and order the censorship of the bishop’s publications.

Coleman, who recently took part in the National Conservatism conference, which socialist Belgian officials tried to forcefully shut down, said, “The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution after almost five long years, despite such clear and unanimous rulings from the lower courts is alarming. The process is the punishment in such instances, resulting in a chill on free speech for all citizens observing.”

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