A Finnish politician is facing jail for her Biblical beliefs: could the same happen here?
Will a court in a democratic country like Finland really have the stomach to send a politician and a church leader to jail for their Christian convictions on sex and marriage?
Probably not. Even if a lower court did convict Dr Päivi Räsänen, a Christian Democrat member of the Finnish Parliament and former Interior Minister (equivalent to the UK's Home Secretary), and Rev Dr Juhana Pohjola, Bishop Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, for inciting hatred against a protected group, the country's Supreme Court would likely overturn the conviction.
The decision by Finland's Prosecutor General to bring three criminal charges against Dr Räsänen has caused the country enough international embarrassment already. Locking people up for expressing their views can only really work in closed societies without a free press and where the populace is paralysed by fear.
Finland has freedom of speech and religion enshrined in its republican constitution. A European Union member since 1995, its government signed the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of speech and religion, in 1989.
Austria-based Christian legal advocacy group ADF International is supporting medical doctor Räsänen who is married to a Lutheran pastor. If the Finnish Supreme Court were to uphold a conviction against her and Dr Pohjola, ADF could help mount an action against Finland in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for breach of the Convention.
This optimistic scenario is not to minimise the seriousness of the Finnish Prosecutor General's decision to charge these two evangelical Christians for articulating traditional biblical teaching. It is disgraceful that the senior prosecutor in a democratic country has charged them for saying that homosexual activity is sinful according to Holy Scripture.
Dr Räsänen, mother of five children and grandmother of six, has also got into trouble for a tweet she posted in 2019 against the Finnish Lutheran Church's backing of a Pride event. Her tweet featured a biblical text.
The Prosecutor General has gone ahead with criminal charges against her for remarks she made in a church booklet in 2004, on a TV show in 2018 and in a 2019 tweet, threatening her with six years in jail.
An article on ADF's website, When a tweet can land you in jail: Criminal charges brought against Finnish MP, reports: 'Police investigations against Räsänen started in June 2019. As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran church, she addressed the leadership of her church and questioned its official sponsorship of the LGBT event "Pride 2019", accompanied by an image of a bible text. Räsänen has already attended several lengthy police interviews about her views and had to wait over a year for the General Prosecutor to decide whether to continue with the prosecution. That decision has now been made and ADF International will continue supporting Räsänen's defense and the right for everyone to freely share their beliefs.'
The charges have been brought against Dr Räsänen despite an earlier investigation by Helsinki police concluding that no law had been broken. But Finland legalised same-sex marriage in 2017 and it could well be that official attitudes against dissent from the LGBT agenda have hardened since then.
Although this is taking place in Finland, it raises the question of whether a Christian politician and church leader could be prosecuted here in the UK for inciting hatred against a protected group by describing sex outside of heterosexual marriage as sin?
Certainly, under the Equality Act 2010 sexual orientation is treated as a protected characteristic. But the UK's freedom of speech protections are currently too strong to make a prosecution like the one in Finland possible. Britain has a law against inciting 'homophobic hatred' but it is much more hedged about with a free speech safeguard than Finland's equivalent. A politically correct bid to mount a prosecution of this nature would not get past the Crown Prosecution Service.
However, if the UK turned into a neo-Marxist elective dictatorship, this could happen here. A militantly woke party with a thumping majority in the House of Commons could easily overturn all the freedom of speech protections for politically incorrect opinions which apply now.
It might make a difference that, unlike republican Finland, the UK has a monarch who swore at her Coronation, Bible in hand, to defend the Christian faith. The Queen could in theory back a Christian democratic resistance movement against a regime that sought to bring in draconian laws against the expression of biblical teaching. If she spoke out against such legislation, she could sway public opinion and MPs would get nervous.
It would be unprecedented for her to intervene on legislation before Parliament in this way. Hopefully, such a fulfilment of her Coronation Oath would not be necessary in her lifetime. But the duty could go to her successor to speak out if such darkness were to fall on Britain.
King Charles III versus the anti-Christian politicians would be an historic contest, adding an urgent spiritual dimension to this usually omitted verse in the UK's National Anthem:
'O Lord our God arise / Scatter his (the King's) enemies / And make them fall / Confound their politics / Frustrate their knavish tricks / On Thee our hopes we fix / God save us all.'
Julian Mann is an evangelical journalist based in Morecambe, Lancashire, and author of Christians in the Community of the Dome.