May 3, 2021 | Freedom of Religion and Belief | HRWF
A Christian member of the Finnish Parliament is facing six years imprisonment for allegedly committing three crimes, including “hate speech,” for sharing her opinion on marriage and human sexuality on social media, on television and in a pamphlet.
The country’s chief prosecutor has brought three criminal charges against Finnish Member of Parliament and former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen, according to the Austria-based Christian legal group ADF International.
The politician, who is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and former chair of the Christian Democrats, has been under police investigation since June 2019 for publicly voicing her opinion on marriage and human sexuality in a 2004 pamphlet, for comments made on a 2018 TV show, and a tweet directed at her church leadership.
A medical doctor, mother of five and grandmother of six, Räsänen now faces two years in prison for each alleged crime, the group said.
“I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment,” said Räsänen in a statement issued by ADF International, which is representing her. “I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone. My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.”
A Member of Parliament since 1995, Räsänen said she will “defend my right to confess my faith so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.”
She said she holds on to “the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored.”
“I will not back down from my views. I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets,” she said.
ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman added, “Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy.”
“The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship,” Coleman continued. “It is sobering that such cases are becoming all too common throughout Europe. If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely.”
In 2019, Räsänen wrote a tweet questioning the leadership of her church for sponsoring the LGBT event “Pride 2019,” it was accompanied by an image of a Bible verse. As a result, she was accused of hate speech and interrogated by the police.
About the pamphlet, ADF International explained that Räsänen wrote it more than 16 years earlier to outline the official teaching of her own church on human sexuality. “Despite the police previously concluding that no crime had been committed, the Prosecutor General re-opened the file,” ADF International said.
The investigations include her comments on a TV show in 2018 in which the presenter came to her home and stayed overnight. In the program, they discussed religious matters, including Räsänen’s personal beliefs.
In a radio interview in 2019, Räsänen commented on the show’s topic of discussion, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”
In her 2019 tweet, she cited Romans 24-27 and posted a picture of the passage from the Bible.
The passage reads: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
Räsänen is no stranger to controversy as she has become known as a prominent Finnish defender of traditional Christian views on marriage, euthanasia and abortion.
As Evangelical Focus noted earlier, Räsänen’s views are often more conservative than those in the ECLF leadership.