Päivi Räsänen: 'Everyone should be free to express their deeply held beliefs'
The prosecution of Finnish Christian MP Päivi Räsänen for publicly sharing her Bible-based beliefs on marriage and sexuality is not over.
After her legal victory on March 30, in which the Helsinki District Court threw out the charges against her, Finland's public prosecutors have just announced that they will appeal the verdict.
Räsänen has served as a member of the Finnish Parliament since 1995, and was Minister of the Interior (the equivalent of the UK Home Secretary) from 2011 to 2015. She is a medical doctor, mother of five children, and has 10 grandchildren.
In an interview for Christian Today, Räsänen explains the significance of her case for Christian freedom of expression in Western democracies.
CT: Now that Finland's public prosecutors have announced that they are going to appeal the not guilty verdict of the Helsinki District Court, what happens next for you legally?
PR: I had hoped that the prosecutors would have settled for this ruling, but they have stated publicly that they will appeal to the Court of Appeal. I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts, also in the European Court of Human Rights. Next, the prosecutor will write an official appeal to the court and then my lawyers and I will answer to it in writing.
CT: What are the chances that the forces of political correctness in your country will get more draconian 'hate speech' laws through your Parliament to ensure that people who express orthodox Christian views are successfully prosecuted?
PR: The ruling of the court is important for Bible-believing Christians, but also more widely for freedom of speech. The ruling gives a very solid and good foundation to defend our foundational rights in the Court of Appeal.
To prevent these kinds of vague 'hate speech' laws being legislated, which would be targeted towards Christians, it is important that we win this case.
It is important to remember that there is no universally agreed definition of 'hate speech'. Nobody knows exactly what it is. If hate speech was in our legislation, there would be a great risk that it limited our freedoms.
I also want to encourage others to speak publicly about the Gospel and express their faith. Otherwise, the space for speaking will eventually become even smaller. The more we keep silent, the more the risk to laws aiming to limit free speech will increase.
CT: Given that it is Western legislatures that have been passing 'hate speech' laws over the past two decades, what do you think free speech campaigners can do to be more effective politically?
PR: The international community should voice their concern over any attacks on free speech. Everyone should be free to express their deeply held beliefs about important issues without fear of censorship or criminal sanction. I encourage Christians to lobby the MPs and other decision makers both at national and international level and raise awareness about the dangers of censorship and cancel culture, which are threats to any democracy.
CT: What is your message to theologically-conservative Christians in Western democracies?
PR: I hope that my case would set a positive precedent for the future regarding freedom of speech and that people would not be afraid to speak. These charges, of which the court acquitted me, show that right now is the time to defend our rights. We are especially called to stand firm on those issues that contradict the spirit of the time.
CT: How has your Christian faith sustained you through the ordeal of your criminal prosecution for publicly expressing your beliefs?
PR: The Christian faith is the basis for my whole life and I have felt it is my calling and honour to defend these foundational freedoms. I have very concretely felt the power of prayer on behalf of me and Finland. I am relieved, happy and grateful to God and to all the people that have supported me.