Finnish MP faces third trial for Christian views on marriage

By Chris Eyte |
Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen addresses press.
Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen addresses press. | (ADF International)

The Supreme Court of Finland on Friday (April 19) ruled that a third trial will go ahead against a former government minister after the Christian was twice acquitted of “hate speech” for expressing her biblical views on marriage.

The high court issued the ruling for another trial for Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen following an appeal by the state prosecutor, according to Alliance Defending Freedom International. (ADF International)

Two previous trials at Helsinki District Court and the Court of Appeal found Räsänen, a grandmother of 11, not guilty of the hate speech charges. A former Minister of the Interior, Räsänen was criminally charged for sharing her Christian views on marriage and sexual ethics in a tweet on X (Twitter) in 2019.

She was also charged in relation to a 2004 pamphlet for her church she wrote about the Biblical book of Genesis stating, “male and female he created them.”

“The prosecutor has not appealed a third charge based on her appearance on a radio show, making her Court of Appeal acquittal on that charge final,” ADF International stated in a press release. “Only the two remaining charges are subject to this latest appeal.” 

Räsänen said in a press statement that she stood up for “everyone’s freedom of expression.”

“This was not just about my opinions, but about everyone’s freedom of expression,” she said. 

Räsänen said she had a “peaceful mind” about the outcome and is “ready to continue to defend free speech and freedom of religion before the Supreme Court, and if need be, also before the European Court of Human Rights.” 

“In my case, the investigation has lasted almost five years, has involved untrue accusations, several long police interrogations totaling more than 13 hours, preparations for court hearings, the District Court hearing, and a hearing in the Court of Appeal,” she said.

The MP stressed that the court case affected everyone’s right to express opinions. 

“I hope that with the ruling of the Supreme Court, others would not have to undergo the same ordeal,” Räsänen said. “I have considered it a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right in a democratic state.” 

Bishop Juhana Pohjola faces charges at the third court case as well for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet two decades ago.

The prosecution has called for Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s publications to be censored, according to ADF International. If found guilty, the two Christians face tens of thousands of euros in fines. 

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, called the event a “watershed case in the story of Europe’s creeping censorship.” 

“In a democratic Western nation in 2024, nobody should be on trial for their faith – yet throughout the prosecution of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, we have seen something akin to a ‘heresy’ trial, where Christians are dragged through court for holding beliefs that differ from the approved orthodoxy of the day,” Coleman said. “The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution after almost five long years, despite such clear and unanimous rulings from the lower courts is alarming. The process is the punishment in such instances, resulting in a chill on free speech for all citizens observing.”

ADF International will continue to stand alongside Räsänen and Pohjola as they face their next day in court, he said.

“Their right to speak freely is everyone’s right to speak freely,” he said. 

Räsänen, a member of the Finnish Lutheran Church, had queried a decision by the church leadership via a Tweet, about the official sponsorship of a LGBT Pride 2019 event, with images quoting verses from the book of Romans. Police launched an investigation and then discovered Räsänen had also written about biblical marriage in a pamphlet 20 years ago.

Finland’s prosecutor general brought three charges of “agitation against a minority group” against the MP in April 2021. These charges came under the “war crimes and crimes against humanity section” of the Finnish Criminal code. 

Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola had a two-day trial at Helsinki District Court on Jan. 14 and Feb. 14, 2022, but the court acquitted both on March 30, 2022, stating, “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts,” according to ADF International. 

The prosecution then appealed the “not guilty” ruling in April 2022. The case was heard by the Helsinki Court in August and September of 2023, with the court reaffirming the acquittal.

Räsänen has been a Finnish MP since 1995. She served as chair of the Christian Democrats from 2004 to 2015. From 2011 to 2015, she worked as the Minister of the Interior with responsibility for church affairs.