On Monday, a staunchly Christian member of Finland’s parliament who is a mother of five children and a grandmother of six went on trial, facing criminal charges for her Biblical views as demonstrated in a 2019 Bible tweet, a radio show in 2019, and a church pamphlet from 2004.
Dr. Päivi Räsänen, whose husband is a pastor in the Lutheran Church, is a veteran member of parliament and former minister of the interior. The Finnish Prosecutor General has brought three criminal charges against her with possibly two years of imprisonment.
As ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen, reported, “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.”
ADF International noted that Räsänen is being “prosecuted for the crime of ‘ethnic agitation,’ under the section of ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ in the Finnish criminal code.” The prosecution argues that Räsänen’s views are discriminatory towards minorities.
Räsänen stated last week, “I will continue to stand for what I believe and what I have written. And I will speak and write about these things, because they are a matter of conviction, not only an opinion. I trust that we still live in a democracy, and we have our constitution and international agreements that guarantee our freedom of speech and religion.”
She has also stated:
I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment. I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone. My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.
I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech. I hold on to the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored. I will not back down from my views. I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.
“Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy,” Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, pointed out. “The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship. It is sobering that such cases are becoming all too common throughout Europe. If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely.”
Elyssa Koren wrote in National Review:
Let this be a warning for us all. Europe may be leading the charge on the proliferation of silencing “hate speech” laws, but the United States is far from immune to this insidious trend. The idea that the government has the prerogative to silence speech with criminal sanctions is gaining traction across the world, with severe ramifications for all fundamental freedoms. … Could what’s happening to Räsänen happen here? The ease with which social-media giants censor and ban accounts with “wrong” opinions should give us pause.