After acquittal, Christian MP says: I’m ready to keep defending freedom of speech and religion

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

 

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, speaks to reporters while holding her Bible at Helsinki District Court on Jan. 24, 2022. / ADF International.

Helsinki, Finland, Mar 30, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

A Christian MP in Finland said on Wednesday that she was willing to continue defending freedom of speech and religion “in all necessary courts.”

Päivi Räsänen was speaking at a press conference on March 30 after the Helsinki District Court unanimously dismissed all charges against her in a high-profile trial concerning her public statements on homosexuality.

The physician and mother of five noted that the state prosecutor had seven days to decide whether to appeal the ruling.

She said: “I had hoped the prosecutor would have settled for this ruling, but today afternoon, I heard that the prosecutor will likely appeal to the court of appeal. We don’t yet know it surely.”

“But if it happens, I’m ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts, also in the European Court of Human Rights if needed.”

“I want today to encourage other people also to use these basic rights. The ruling of the court is important for Bible-believing Christians but also more widely for freedom of speech.”

The Prosecutor General had charged Räsänen, who served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, with incitement against a minority group, arguing that her statements were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”

The charges against the 62-year-old related to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet, her appearance in a 2018 radio debate, and a Twitter post in 2019.

As well as acquitting Räsänen of all charges, the court ordered the state to pay legal costs to the defense of more than 60,000 euros (over $66,000).

Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. ADF International press conference.
Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. ADF International press conference.

The court also dismissed a charge against Juhana Pohjola, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet, “Male and Female He Created Them.”

He said at the press conference that he was also willing to keep up the legal battle if necessary.

“Although it seems that it will continue, this case, maybe for a few more years, the battle is won today,” he said. “The war might continue, but today we rejoice about the victory received in the court.”

He added: “I’m very thankful that this freedom of speech and religion, the basic rights, are maintained in our country. Although like Päivi Räsänen said, we would have continued anyway because as a guardian of faith and a teacher of faith, it’s our holy duty and vocation to teach all what Christ has given in His Word.”

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, which supported Räsänen and Pohjola, said that the Christian legal group was delighted by the court’s ruling.

“We consider it to be an extremely important decision, which upholds the fundamental right to freedom of speech in Finland, but also more broadly,” he said.

“We believe that in a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. And we see the great threat that can come through these hate speech laws, which often end up shutting down important public debates and often can pose a great threat not only to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but also to democracy itself.”

He added: “While we celebrate this victory, we also lament the fact that this case was brought in the first place. This has been an ordeal that has lasted for almost three years. It has involved hours of police interrogations, countless hours of time of Bishop Juhana and Päivi having to defend themselves, explain themselves, explain their beliefs to police officers and prosecutors.”

“We lament the fact that in the court hearing itself, the state prosecutor was engaging in critique of the Bible and raising theological questions to an ordained bishop.”

“And so while we celebrate the victory, the real victories that we will see in Europe is when cases like this don’t exist in the first place. Because as long as these cases continue to exist, and so much time, effort, and energy are required to defend innocent people from these charges, then we can never truly say that it is a victory for freedom of expression.”


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