Once more, Finnish Parliamentarian Paivi Rasanen has been exonerated in a case centered on a tweet featuring a quote from the Bible.
This triumph comes after a challenging four-year legal struggle, wherein Rasanen experienced arrest, formal charges, and the need to defend her Christian beliefs while testifying in court.
The case also involved Bishop Juhana Pohjola, who had published some of Rasanen’s works two decades ago. The court acquitted the bishop of hate speech charges. The controversy arose when the Finland Evangelical Lutheran Church sponsored the Helsinki Pride Parade in 2019. Rasanen, a member of the Church, tweeted a picture of Romans Chapter 1, which discusses God’s wrath against sin.
Support for Rasanen came from the religious freedom group ADF International. Executive Director Paul Coleman highlighted the underlying question posed by her tweet: “How does the teaching of Scripture align with the decision of her Church to sponsor this pride parade?”
The legal trouble began when Rasanen was investigated by the police for hate speech related to her tweet. Coleman explained the unusual course of events, stating, “They just started going back in time.” The authorities uncovered a booklet she had published nearly 20 years ago for her church, preceding the adoption of the law under which she was charged. They also took an out-of-context extract from a live radio debate in 2019, stringing together three charges of hate speech based on her Christian beliefs about marriage and human sexuality over almost two decades.
Despite the court’s decision in her favor, Rasanen’s legal battles may not be over. Coleman noted, “The prosecutor still has one more option to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court of Finland.” The prosecutor expressed consideration for an appeal, with a deadline set for January 15th. Coleman emphasized that the joy of acquittal is tempered by the lengthy and burdensome nature of the legal proceedings.
“The process ultimately becomes the punishment,” Coleman stated. He highlighted the toll on Rasanen’s life, spanning years of expensive defense efforts against a state with unlimited resources to prosecute. The ordeal, both in terms of time and money, raises concerns about the fairness of dragging someone through the courts for such an extended period. While celebrating the acquittal, Coleman emphasized that the case should never have been pursued in the first place.
The legal saga has drawn attention to the delicate balance between freedom of expression and the limits imposed by hate speech laws.