Should tweeting a bible verse send someone to jail? The answer to this question may now be up for debate at the Supreme Court of Finland.
Member of Finish Parliament, Päivi Räsänen, is headed back to trial for the third time after state prosecutors appealed a lower court ruling earlier today. Räsänen is accused of inciting hate speech after sharing her Christian beliefs on social media. Despite a unanimous acquittal of all charges at the Helsinki District Court in March 2022, which was appealed and later upheld by the Helsinki Court of Appeal in November 2023, state prosecutors are viciously going after the parliamentarian and grandmother of eleven.
Also facing charges in this case is Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola, who published a booklet on biblical marriage that Räsänen helped write almost 20 years ago.
Finland’s Prosecutor General first brought these charges in April 2021, making this an almost 3-year legal battle Räsänen and Pohjola have endured. The first charges against Räsänen included “agitation against a minority group,” which fell under the ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity section’ of Finland’s criminal code.
Despite being targeted by her own government, Räsänen remains hopeful, telling ADF International that’s leading her defense, “After my full exoneration in two courts, I’m not afraid of a hearing before the Supreme Court. 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.”
In Sept. 2023, International Christian Concern (ICC) sent a petition with 860+ signatures calling on Finland’s Office of the Prosecutor General to drop these charges.
ICC Advocacy Manager McKenna Wendt said, “ICC is committed to standing in solidarity with Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola. This egregious attempt to censor Christian beliefs is the type of behavior we see in countries like Iran and North Korea, not in Western democracies. We pray for a favorable outcome and for religious freedom to prevail in Finland.” — International Christian Concern