Evangelical body writes to Finnish government over charges against Christian MP

Päivi Räsänen (c) is being supported in her case by the Alliance Defending Freedom International.(Photo: ADF International)

The European Evangelical Alliance has called on Finland to respect religious freedom after charges were brought against a Christian MP who expressed the biblical view of marriage and sexuality in public.

In his letter, EEA General Secretary Thomas Bucher said he was "dismayed" by the treatment of Päivi Räsänen, Finland's former Minister of the Interior.

She has been charged with inciting hatred for remarks she made defending the traditional Christian sexual ethic in a booklet in 2004, on TV in 2018 and in a tweet against the Finnish Lutheran Church's support for the LGBT Pride movement.

Charges were brought by the Public Prosecutor despite the police concluding there was no case to answer.  She now faces up to six years in jail. 

Explaining the decision to proceed with criminal charges, a representative of the Public Prosecutor's office told Christian Today that Räsänen's statements on marriage and sexuality could be described as "discriminatory hate speech".

The EEA, which represents 23 million evangelicals across Europe, Bucher disagreed with this assessment, saying that her actions did not cross the UN's Rabat threshold for hate speech.

"The context, content and form of her words were fine. There is no hint of intent, likelihood or imminence of acts of hatred happening," he said. 

He went on to say that freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression for people of all faiths and none were "vital pillars of democracy" that should be defended by the Finnish government. 

"Is the Public Prosecutor attempting to redefine human rights law?" he wrote. 

"Freedom of expression gives the right for anyone to share their opinion. The right to freedom of expression exists to legally protect those that express views which may offend, shock or disturb others.

"Therefore, EEA calls upon the Finnish court system to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.

"We urge the Finnish government to make clear its unequivocal support for these fundamental freedoms and the Rabat Plan of Action's threshold for hate speech."