A PROMINENT Finnish MP was in court in Helsinki this week, accused of hate speech after quoting from the Bible.
The former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen, a Christian Democrat MP, was charged by the Prosecutor General of Finland over a Twitter post in which Ms Räsänen criticised the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s decision to work in partnership with the country’s sexual-equality organisation (SETA), asking how it could reconcile “shame and sin” with “pride”. Her post was accompanied by a photograph of Romans 1.24-27.
The defence claims that the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits a person from having to defend their faith before an authority. In Monday’s opening court sessions, however, the public prosecutor, Anu Mantila, argued that the case was not an issue of Ms Räsänen’s religious freedom, but whether her post violated the fundamental rights of others.
Ms Räsänen, a doctor who is married to a Lutheran pastor, is being prosecuted for three charges of “ethnic agitation”, under the heading of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Finnish law. If found guilty, she could face a prison sentence.
Ms Räsänen is well known in Finland for her conservative views, and particularly her opposition to LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. In the past two years, she has been interviewed by the police on several occasions about her Christian beliefs and her understanding of the Bible. She was investigated in 2019 for incitement after criticising the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s participation in Pride celebrations.
Two of the three charges that Ms Räsänen currently faces come after the police made strong recommendations not to continue the prosecution. They argued that her statements did not appear to violate the policies of Twitter or the national broadcasting network, and were still freely available on their platforms.
There is a further hearing on 14 February for closing statements, after which the court has one month to pronounce a verdict. The case may ultimately be decided by the European Court of Justice.