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Parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen appeared before the Helsinki Court of Appeal on Thursday and Friday to defend her beliefs after she was charged with “hate speech” violations, including for a 2019 tweet that included pictures of Bible verses and a pamphlet she wrote on marriage back in 2004.
“Everyone should be able to share their beliefs without fearing censorship by state-authorities. I know that the prosecution is trying to make an example of me to scare others into silence. Yet, you do not have to align with my views to agree that everyone should be able to speak freely. With God’s help I will remain steadfast and continue defending everyone’s human right to free speech,” Räsänen said on the first day of her new trial, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom International, which is supporting the parliamentarian’s defense.
She was unanimously acquitted by the District Court of Helsinki for the same charges back in March 2022.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola is also being prosecuted for publishing the pamphlet under charges related to “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in the criminal code of Finland.
Prosecutors have argued that they “can limit freedom of expression in the outward expression of religion.” They also said that the 2019 tweet was criminal because of Räsänen’s interpretation of the verse. “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal,” the prosecutor said.
Paul Coleman, the executive director of ADF International and a member of Räsänen’s legal team, said that Finland’s hate speech laws were a danger to democratic societies.
“In a democratic society, everyone should be free to share their beliefs without fear of state prosecution. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and endangers democracy. Cases like Päivi’s create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming increasingly common worldwide. We hope the Helsinki Court of Appeal will uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech and clear Päivi Räsänen of these baseless charges,” he said.
The case has garnered international attention with Republicans urging State Department Officials to step in and support Räsänen. Earlier this month, Republican representatives sent a letter to Douglas Hickey, America’s ambassador to Finland, and Rashad Hussain, the ambassador for the U.S. Office of Religious Freedom, in her defense.