Christian politician facing trial again for Bible tweet submits defence to Finland's Supreme Court

Päivi Räsänen (c) is facing trial for the third time.(Photo: ADF International)

(CP) Finnish Christian parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen has submitted her defence to Finland's Supreme Court after being taken to trial a third time for tweeting a Bible verse half a decade ago in opposition to homosexuality.

Räsänen's defence argues she was within her international rights to express her opinion despite the state prosecutor's charging her with a hate crime over a 2019 tweet that questioned the Finnish Lutheran Church for celebrating LGBT "pride month."

"Vague or far-reaching laws against advocacy of hatred, or blasphemy, [offense] to religious feelings and similar [offenses] are not only arbitrary; they can also lead to the direct and structural marginalization of religious or belief communities," the defence submission states.

According to a statement from her lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, the defence contends that Räsänen, who served as Finland's interior minister from 2011 to 2015, has always advocated that everyone be treated with dignity and not subjected to discrimination.

In 2019, police began investigating Räsänen — a grandmother of 11 who led Finland's Christian Democratic Party from 2004 to 2015 — in response to her tweet that quoted the condemnation of homosexuality in the book of Romans. She rebuked the Finnish Lutheran Church for presenting "shame and sin" as "a matter of pride."

Investigators also took issue with a pamphlet she published in 2004 with Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland.

Titled "Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity," the pamphlet cited Genesis 1:27 to state that God created humans male and female, and that their sexuality should reflect that.

After being subjected to approximately 13 hours of interrogation over months, Finland's prosecutor general used Räsänen's tweet, pamphlet and a radio interview to draw up a hate crime charge against her.

Räsänen was charged with "agitation against a minority group," which falls under the umbrella of the "war crimes and crimes against humanity" section in Finnish law.

Pohjola was also charged with publishing Räsänen's 20-year-old pamphlet and will face trial alongside her again before the Supreme Court.

The Helsinki Court of Appeal unanimously acquitted Räsänen and Pohjola last November, which followed a similar acquittal by the three-judge District Court of Helsinki in March 2022.

The state prosecutor appealed their acquittal a third time on two charges, demanding that the two be fined tens of thousands of euros and their work be censored.

Räsänen's case has drawn international attention for its implications regarding free speech, with some warning about the growing impulse from some Western governments to clamp down on dissent.

Räsänen said in a statement that the "heart of the trial is the question of whether teachings linked to the Bible can be displayed and agreed with."

"I consider it a privilege and an honour to defend freedom of expression, which is a core right in a democratic state," she continued. "My religious conviction has been buffeted about by the Prosecutor's Office of Finland during the five years of this legal saga.

"An acquittal by the Supreme Court would serve as a stronger precedent than lower court rulings for subsequent similar charges. It would provide a clearer and stronger safeguard for the freedom of Christians to present the teachings of the Bible — and it would strengthen the principle of freedom of expression in general," she also said

ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman described Räsänen's defence as "a watershed case in the story of Europe's censorship."

"In a democratic Western nation in 2024, nobody should be on trial for their faith, yet throughout the prosecution of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, we have seen something akin to a 'heresy' trial, where Christians are dragged through court for holding beliefs that differ from the approved orthodoxy of the day," Coleman 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," Coleman added. "The process is the punishment in such instances, resulting in a chill on free speech for all citizens observing."

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