Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen Faces Second Hate Speech Trial Over Bible Verses

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Photo: Screenshot from Twitter - ADF Legal

Päivi Räsänen, Finnish MP and former government minister,  has once again found herself at the center of a high-profile trial, facing charges of “hate speech” over her postings of Bible verses on social media. 

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This marks her second trial on such charges, and the latest proceedings unfolded before the Helsinki Court of Appeal. The charges brought against Räsänen stem from her expressions of Christian faith, which have triggered a heated debate in Finland and beyond.

The prosecution alleges that Räsänen’s actions constitute “agitation against a minority group” under the umbrella of “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity” in Finland. The three expressions of her Christian beliefs under scrutiny include a tweet, a church pamphlet published nearly two decades ago, and a 2019 radio interview. Räsänen has vehemently defended her stance throughout the trial, emphasizing the importance of upholding freedom of speech and religion.

In her contentious tweet, Räsänen questioned her Church’s sponsorship of a Pride event and included a Bible verse from Romans. The prosecutor sought to clarify that the trial was not an indictment of God or the Bible’s authors but rather focused on Räsänen’s interpretation and opinions about the Bible verses she shared. The prosecution contended that Räsänen’s comments crossed the line into criminal territory.

When asked whether she would reconsider or remove her statements about marriage and sexuality contained in her 2004 church pamphlet titled “Male & Female He Created Them,” Räsänen firmly declined. Her unwavering commitment to her religious beliefs remained a cornerstone of her defense.

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, an organization supporting Räsänen’s legal defense, expressed concerns about the prosecution’s approach. He emphasized that the core issue at stake was whether Räsänen would recant her beliefs. Her steadfast refusal to do so raised questions about the fairness and principles of democracy, particularly in a society that champions progress.

The prosecution argued that Räsänen should have been aware that her words could be offensive to certain individuals and therefore should have refrained from making them. Their contention was that the truth of her statements was not the crux of the matter; rather, it was their potentially “insulting” nature that counted.

Räsänen’s defense team, organized by ADF International, framed their case around the fundamental principles of freedom of speech, which is protected both internationally and in Finland. They pointed out that the use of the word “sin” in Räsänen’s tweet, which the prosecution considered unlawful, was a direct quotation from the Bible. To condemn this usage would effectively amount to condemning the Bible itself.

The trial has sparked a robust debate over the delicate balance between freedom of expression and protection against hate speech, and it has far-reaching implications for not only Finland but also Europe as a whole. Räsänen’s case has become a symbol of the clash between deeply held religious beliefs and modern societal values.

The court is expected to deliver its verdict by November 30th, which will undoubtedly be eagerly awaited by both supporters of Räsänen and advocates for the protection of free speech and religious liberty.

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