In April 2021 the member of the national Finnish parliament and former government minister was formally charged with hate speech against homosexuals for her opinions voiced on three platforms. Räsänen will be tried for quoting the Bible on homosexuality on social media in 2019, for authoring a booklet about marriage published in 2004, and for her views in a talk show about Christian faith and homosexuality.
The two-year pre-trial investigations of the Finnish General Prosecutor against Räsänen, a medical doctor with strong Christian convictions, are seen by theologically conservative Christians in Finland as a clear study case of the erosion of the ability of citizens to express their deeply held beliefs.
Finnish Evangelical Alliance (SEA) is writing: “The definition of what is sin in religious terms, or the resolution of theological differences is not an issue for the judiciary to assess”, but a matter concerning “the scope of religious freedom. It is the task of the state and the judiciary to uphold the widest possible freedom of expression, opinion and religion”.
“The sexual ethical position represented by Räsänen and Juhana Pohjola [a Lutheran publisher also charged in one of the cases] in public is the prevailing view of Christian churches worldwide. If the presentation of this view and the treatment of the Bible interpretation concerning it were to be considered as an offense, it would have a strong restrictive effect on religious freedom”, they warned. “Churches would then be prevented from teaching their own doctrine freely, and the dissemination of the Bible could also be prohibited. This would be a gross violation of fundamental and human rights”.
In contrast, other influential media people have defended citizen´s rights to express their ideas freely. Tapani Ruokanen, a respected journalist, tweeted: “I defend freedom of speech and religion, especially if I disagree with the speaker. Quoting the Bible belongs to both freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Päivi Räsänen’s accusations take the judiciary towards the Middle Ages. Uncivilized, shameful and meaningless ineptitude”.
Some prominent atheists have also voiced their support for Räsänen’s right to speak. Several international online media outlets have echoed the information around the Päivi Räsänen case in the last months.
Christians in Finland could be tempted to fall into self-censorship, but this is why the SEA “urges Christians in all denominations to continue to boldly present the truth of the Bible in a loving and respectful manner”. The statement calls with an invitation to “pray” for the Christians involved in the court process “as well as for the General Prosecutor and the entire judiciary”.
Summary from Evangelical Focus, Europe 5/5 2021, by Rauli Lehtonen, PCRL
PLEASE WRITE APPEALS FOR PÄIVI RÄSÄNEN TO FINNISH EMBASSIES IN YOUR COUNTRIES (Every letter is recognized by Finnish Foreign Deapartment)!