Finally a win for freedom of conscience and religion:
While she has been getting a lot of attention lately, I first wrote about the brave European politician and Christian champion Päivi Räsänen back in 2019. In that piece I referred to her as “the Finnish Israel Folau” because she was taking a strong and principled stand for biblical truth, even while serving in a hostile, secular parliament.
I quoted news reports about her at the time stating her ‘crime’: “A Christian member of Finland’s parliament is under investigation after she cited the New Testament on social media to voice her objection to the Lutheran church’s participation in an LGBT pride event.” https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/09/16/quoting-from-the-bible-will-get-you-into-trouble/
As she said in an interview back then (which I also featured in my article):
We are living at a time when the effect of Christian culture on society is narrowing. Although many Finns still belong to Christian churches and denominations, the basic teachings of the Christian faith are no longer views of the majority. The breaking of the Christian worldview is visible both in the societal discussions and in the decision making, whether we are thinking of pro-life issues and the protection of life both in the beginning and in the end of life, or views related to marriage. Having a traditional view of marriage has become a politically incorrect view in public discussions. However, many Finns do still understand and support the Christian worldview.
So after a full two and a half years of being treated like an axe murderer – or worse – this courageous politician has just learned that she has won her case in a Helsinki court. While her persecutors have a week to launch an appeal, for the moment this fearless Bible-believing Christian has been vindicated. And that is terrific news indeed. As one news report puts it:
The verdict in the closely watched trial of a Finnish Christian MP was announced on Wednesday. A court in Helsinki dismissed all charges against Päivi Räsänen, a physician and mother of five, and Juhana Pohjola, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, after a free speech trial that drew international attention. The court said in a unanimous 28-page ruling on March 30 that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.”
It said that Räsänen had sought to “defend the concept of family and marriage between a man and a woman.” If some people found the statements offensive, it said, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.” It ordered the state to pay legal costs to the defense of more than 60,000 euros.
Räsänen said: “I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favor. I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted. Although I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal.”
The charges against the 62-year-old Räsänen related to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet, her appearance on a 2018 television program, and a Twitter post in 2019. The Prosecutor General 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 charge against Pohjola concerned his decision to publish Räsänen’s pamphlet, Male and Female He Created Them.
Wow, this win is great news indeed. The article continues:
Police began investigating Räsänen in 2019. She faced several police interviews and had to wait more than a year for the Prosecutor General’s decision. The International Lutheran Council described the decision to prosecute Räsänen and Pohjola as “egregious.”
It said: “The vast majority of Christians in all nations, including Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, share these convictions. Would the Finnish Prosecutor General condemn us all? Moreover, shall the Finnish state risk governmental sanctions from other states based on the abuse of foundational human rights?”
Addressing the pamphlet, which described homosexuality as “a disorder of psycho-sexual development,” Räsänen told the court that she was asked to write a text outlining Lutheran teaching on sexuality for members of her church, from her viewpoint as a politician, doctor, and Christian….
Paul Coleman, ADF International’s executive director, who was present on the first day of the trial on Jan. 24, commented: “I would characterize the day as a modern-day Inquisition or heresy trial and the heresy was that Päivi and Bishop Juhana were on trial against the new sexual orthodoxy of the day.” https://www.ncregister.com/cna/christian-mp-acquitted-on-all-charges-after-finland-s-bible-tweet-trial
And Lorcán Price, an Irish barrister and legal counsel for ADF International based in Strasbourg, France, who was part of the legal team defending Dr Päivi Räsänen just penned an article on the significance of this legal victory. He said:
For articulating mainstream Christian views on marriage and sexuality, Räsänen and Pohjola were subjected to over 10 hours of police interrogation and a two-day trial, where they were cross-examined by a public prosecutor about the ‘hateful’ beliefs in the Bible….
That both Räsänen and Pohjola were cleared of all charges is a thundering victory for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. However, we must ask how it has come to this. Why were their views ever considered criminal in the first place?
We’ve certainly come a long way from 1976. That was the year the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg declared that freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, extended to speech and ideas that ‘offend, shock or disturb’. It ruled that tolerating offensive ideas is the demand ‘of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness, without which there would be no democratic society’.
He concludes with these words:
Thus, to paraphrase the legal theorist Ronald Dworkin, hate speech is speech that they hate. Attempting to protect democracy by eliminating voices that shock, offend or disturb from public discussion leaves us with an anaemic and deformed democracy. In trying to ‘protect’ certain people from the supposed violence of words, we have done violence to our public square. So let’s build the resilience we need to be shocked, offended or disturbed once more. A truly democratic society demands nothing less.
Absolutely. Perhaps this is the beginning of a reversal of fortune here. For so many years we have seen one Christian after another persecuted, fined, fired and demonised by the sexual militants and activist courts. May this be the first of many wins for religious freedom and for the rights of Christians to share their faith openly and without fear.
And please keep praying for this modern day Daniel. As mentioned, an appeal can still see the decision overturned. As I said at the end of my 2019 article:
In my books Päivi Räsänen is a real champion. We certainly need more bold and sold-out Christian politicians like her. She puts to shame all the limp-wristed and cowardly Christians who refuse to take a stand and speak out, be it in parliament or in any other public forums. Please pray for brave Päivi. She is a wonderful witness for Christ. God bless you Päivi.