Prosecutor appeals Bible-tweet case to Finnish Supreme Court
Prosecution of Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen continues despite appellate court confirming unanimous ‘not guilty’ ruling
HELSINKI – The Finnish state prosecutor will appeal the second unanimous court decision that exonerated Finnish Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola of “hate speech” allegations for sharing their faith-based beliefs.
The prosecution is demanding tens of thousands of Euros in fines and insisting that Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s publications be censored. On Nov. 14 of last year, the Helsinki Court of Appeals dismissed all charges against Räsänen and Pohjola, stating that it “has no reason, on the basis of the evidence received at the main hearing, to assess the case in any respect differently from the District Court.” The Supreme Court must now decide whether it will hear the case.
“After my full exoneration in two courts, I’m not afraid of a hearing before the Supreme Court,” said Räsänen. “Even though I am fully aware that every trial carries risks, an acquittal from the Supreme Court would set an even stronger positive precedent for everyone’s right to free speech and religion. And if the court decided to overturn the lower courts’ acquittals, I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as the European Court of Human rights, if necessary.”
Räsänen, also a former minister of the interior, had been charged with “hate speech” for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics in a 2019 tweet, during a 2019 radio discussion, and in a 2004 church pamphlet. Pohjola faced charges for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet for his congregation almost two decades ago. Their case has garnered global media attention this year, as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat this case posed to free speech in Finland.
“The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution despite such a clear and unanimous ruling by both the Helsinki District Court and Court of Appeal is alarming,” said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen’s legal defense. “Dragging people through the courts for years, subjecting them to hour-long police interrogations, and wasting taxpayer money to police people’s deeply held beliefs has no place in a democratic society. As is so often the case in “hate speech” trials, the process has become the punishment.”
Police investigations against Räsänen started in June 2019. As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran church, she had questioned the leadership of her church on Twitter (now X) about its official sponsorship of the LGBT event “Pride 2019” and included an image of Bible verses from the New Testament book of Romans. Following the tweet, further investigations against Räsänen were launched, including investigation of a church pamphlet Räsänen wrote nearly 20 years ago.
Over several months, Räsänen endured a total of 13 hours of police interrogations about her Christian beliefs, including being frequently asked by the police to explain her understanding of the Bible.
In April 2021, Finland’s prosecutor general brought three charges of “agitation against a minority group” against Räsänen. They fall under the “war crimes and crimes against humanity” section in the Finnish criminal code. Räsänen and Pohjola faced two days of trial at the Helsinki District Court in January and February of 2022. The Bible was front and center at the trial, as the prosecutor presented Bible verses with which she took issue.
On March 30, 2022, the Helsinki District Court unanimously acquitted Räsänen and Pohjola, stating that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” The prosecution appealed the ruling the following month. The Helsinki Court of Appeal heard the case in late summer that year and on Nov 14, 2023, confirmed Räsänen and Pohjola’s acquittal.
Räsänen has served as a Finnish member of Parliament since 1995. From 2004-2015 she was chair of the Christian Democrats, and from 2011-2015 she was Finland’s minister of the interior.
- Pronunciation guide: Päivi Räsänen (PI’-vee RAHZ’-uh-nen)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
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