The district court in Helsinki released the parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen from all the three accusations, which were directed against her concerning “agitation against ethnic group”. The court decision was made today, on Wednesday the 30th of March at 12 AM.
- I am extremely thankful to God, happy and relieved over the decision, which included all the three accusations against myself and Juhana Pohjola. We also want to thank all the people, who have supported us during the long process.
- The decision was expected, because there has not been a single moment, when I have been worried about, if I have broken the law on agitation against ethnic group. I would have been very upset and surprised, if the decision would have been different.
- I have also been thankful and felt myself honored in defending the rights of speech and religious liberty, which are the basic elements of a democratic society, Päivi Räsänen stressed at the media conference immediately after the trial.
Päivi Räsänen even considered the process as a historical one, because it was the first time, when the biblical truths have been evaluated in a criminal process as well as the rights of quoting the message of the Bible. The trial has painted the frames of religious liberty and freedom of speech more clearly – especially for pastors, who have been brave enough to “swim against the streams” in liberal and secular societies.
The court decision was documented in a script, which consisted of 28 pages.
I just got the English manus from Päivi Räsänen and her speech during the press conference in Helsinki. Here it is:
Press conference 30.3.2022
Helsinki District Court has in its just published ruling acquitted me from all the three charges. I am relieved and happy. The ruling was what I expected – I have not for a second believed I would have committed anything illegal in my writings and statements.
I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted. I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, which is an essential right in a democratic country. I greatly appreciate it that the court recognized in its decision the meaning of free speech. I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal.
This court process and the decision are historical with regard to freedom of speech and religion. The court has had to for the first time to take a stand on whether it is legal or not to cite the Bible and to agree with it. The judges have had to weigh the relations between the foundational rights and the criminal law and the interrelationship between different foundational laws.
The international interest has been massive – no one has machinated it from Finland. I have received thousands of supporting messages through different channels. Still, every day, I get messages from many countries about how people are praying for me and Finland. Several churches, congregations and Christian communities have expressed their concern for the situation.
The interest for this case rises from the thought that if this kind of questioning of free speech is possible in a country like Finland, which has a good reputation internationally, the same is possible anywhere. In the latest Rule of Law Index. Finland ranked 3rd. It is alarming that in a country that ranked so high in the Rule of Law Index, I have been criminally charged for voicing my deeply held beliefs that are based on classical Christianity.
This process has been long, it has lasted for three years, and it has consumed the time and resources of myself, the police and the court.
The starting point of this process was a tweet that I published in June 2019. In the tweet, I questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019 and accompanied my publication with a photo of Bible, from the Letter to the Romans 1:24-27. The aim of my criticism was the leadership of my own church, not any minority. According to the Church Act, approved by our Parliament, “all doctrine must be examined and evaluated according to God’s Holy Word”. The target of my criticism was the leadership of the church, not any minority.
A citizen made a criminal complaint against me, and the police started a criminal investigation about the tweet. Altogether, five criminal complaints were done against me. On the 22nd of April 2021, The Prosecutor General filed three different charges against me. A criminal complaint was made about an old pamphlet I had written already in 2004 “Male and female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity”, which is accessible at https://www.lhpk.fi/en/booklet-male-and-female-he-created-them-homosexual-relationships-challenge-the-christian-concept-of-humanity-paivi-rasanen/
Another charge was about my views presented on the 20th of December 2019 in one humorous radio interview with Ruben Stiller, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”.
The bishop of the Mission Diocese, Juhana Pohjola, was prosecuted because of being responsible for publishing and making the pamphlet accessible in the internet. I am thankful that the court acquitted him also.
In these two latter cases, the Prosecutor General ordered the investigation against what the police had decided. Earlier, the police released a decision that my pamphlet gave no cause for criminal investigation and noted: “If any of the viewpoints contained in the Bible would be considered sufficient to fulfil the criteria for the crime, then the distribution of the Bible or rendering it available would be considered a crime and thus punishable.”
My writings and statements under investigation are linked to the Bible’s teachings on marriage, living as a man and a woman, as well as the Apostle Paul’s teaching on sin. The points of view for which I am accused do not deviate from so-called classical Christianity, nor does my view on marriage deviate from the official policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
I have been several times interrogated by the police, together for 13 hours. Surprisingly many questions have been about the Bible and its interpretation. I was asked, what is the message of the book of Romans and its first chapter. What do I mean with the words ”sin” and “shame”? The police also asked if I agree to delete within two weeks my writings. I answered no, and that I stand behind these teachings of the Bible, whatever the consequences are. I will not back down from my conviction based on the Bible.
The decision of the court has consequences not only to Christians’ freedom to express their conviction, but to everyone else’s also. In court, I appealed to the Constitution of Finland and to international conventions that guarantee freedom of speech and religion.
The prosecutor has a year ago in her written application for summons made a number of false and untrue allegations about my views. According to the prosecutor, my view is that “homosexuals are not created by God as heterosexuals are.” Nowhere have I said such a thing. I have repeatedly emphasized that all human beings are created in the image of God and have equal dignity and human rights. In the passage to which the prosecutor refers, reference was made to the biblical account of creation. Referring to it, I stated: “In the beginning, God created a man and a woman and intended marriage to be between the two.”
Contrary to what the prosecutor claims, in the Ruben Stiller radio discussion program, I did not call homosexuality a genetic degeneration or a disease-causing genetic inheritance. On the contrary, I rejected the idea of homosexuality as a genetic trait, a claim that was suggested by the host of the discussion program, saying that the most recent studies have shown the possible genetic inheritance in homosexuality to be small.
The prosecutor claims that, according to me, the tendency to sexually abuse children is an inescapable characteristic of homosexuality. I have not said this and do not think so. Furthermore, the prosecutor claims I regard homosexuals as inferior human beings. I regard homosexuals as fully equal humans and, in addition, equally worthy human beings created in the image of God.
Although the prosecutor at first assured that the trial would not be an inquisition, she surprisingly targeted the core doctrine of Christianity. Very fast and extensively she moved to read the Bible trying to prove it contains insulting paragraphs. She claimed that my views are known as” fundamentalist” doctrine, which she summarized as “love the sinner, hate the sin”. This doctrine she regarded as insulting and defaming, because according to her, you cannot make a distinction between the person’s identity and his or her action. If you condemn the act, you also condemn the human being and regard him or her as inferior.
This is an egregious statement. It goes against the Christian view of man and common sense. The prosecutor tries to deny the core message of the Bible: the teaching of law and gospel. God has created all human beings as His own image and we all have equal value, but we all are also sinners. No-one’s human dignity decreases because of sin. God still loves the person but hates the sin. Sin is a theological concept that describes the relationship between God and man and God is the one who defines what sin is. God so loved all the people, that He gave His only Son to die on the cross to suffer the punishment that belonged to us because of our sins.
The thought that you could not make a distinction between the person’s deeds and his or her identity or human dignity is unfamiliar to life. As I was raising my children, I loved them all equally, but I still had to at times criticize their actions quite harshly. The prosecutor’s thought is also unfamiliar to the rule of law. Even the most notorious criminals do not lose their human rights or human dignity if they get a punishment for their deeds. Especially in court this principle should be very clear.
Already this three-year process with all the investigations and court sessions has in practice narrowed freedom of religion and free speech by creating self-censorship. People are afraid of the possible consequences when expressing their faith and conviction in public.
I could sense the unease of the police when they asked me several times if, based on the Act on the Openness of Government Activities, I wanted to keep in secret all those points that showed by religious conviction in the preliminary investigation report. Well, no, I did not want that. The majority of the report would then have had to be concealed. This tells very much about the incoherence of the whole situation. At the same that that we are trying to protect religious conviction for the reasons of it being a private matter belonging to the sphere of privacy, we are severely challenging this right with judicial consequences.
The Prosecutor claimed in court that Räsänen can believe in her own mind, but she cannot express her faith in this way. I encountered this same kind of limited understanding of religious freedom when I was the minister responsible for church affairs and had a discussion with the Chinese Minister in charge of religious matters.
According to the universal declaration of human rights, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
The possible sentence for the crime of ethnic agitation would have been up to two years imprisonment or a fine. But an even more serious problem would have been the resulting censorship: an order to remove social media updates or a ban on posting. The sentence would open the floodgates to a ban on similar publications and the threat of modern book burnings.
It is likely that the charges will be taken to higher courts, even to the European Court of Human Rights. I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts and I want to encourage others to use these basic rights.
I want to warmly and deeply thank all those thousands of people that have supported me. Thank you Sankamo, Anttinen, Juhana, Evamaria, Niilo and my own family.
The ruling of the court is important for the Bible-believing Christians, but also more widely for freedom of speech. In the preliminary investigation concerning the pamphlet, the police gave an excellent advice for the person who did the criminal complaint, and at the same time for all of us who wish to discuss:
“This matter is about legally using the right to free speech. Preliminary investigation cannot be used as a channel to accuse free religious opinions and valuations, although these opinions would be experienced as disturbing and inappropriate. There is no reason to suspect a crime and a preliminary investigation is therefore not conducted. The result is that the informant, the person behind the criminal complaint, has to per se react to the opinions of Räsänen he sees as problematic by debate and by publishing and discussing on different platforms and forums available in the civil society.”