Finland’s government has charged Päivi Räsänen, a member of the country’s parliament, with three counts of hate speech against homosexuals for sharing her Biblical beliefs about marriage and same-sex relationships. If convicted, Räsänen could face up to two years in prison.
“I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment,” Räsänen said, referring to her personal statements that prompted the two-year investigation. “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.”
The three charges stem from a 2004 pamphlet Räsänen wrote titled, “Male and Female He Created Them—Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity,” in which she said that God designed marriage for one man and one woman. Raija Toiviainen, the prosecutor general of Finland, formally issued the charges. Toiviainen also cited Räsänen’s response to being asked on a 2018 radio program about what Jesus would think about homosexuality, as well as a 2019 social media post in which Räsänen questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s support of the Helsinki LGBT Pride event, while including a photo of Romans 1:24-27.
According to a press release from the Office of the Prosecutor General, Toiviainen claims Räsänen’s statements violate the equality and dignity of homosexuals, and therefore transcend the boundaries of freedom of speech and religion. She also said Räsänen’s statements are likely to cause intolerance, contempt and hatred toward homosexuals.
“Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy,” responded Paul Coleman, executive director of Alliance Defending Freedom International. “The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship. 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.”
Räsänen has indicated that she intends to fight the charges.
“I 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. “I hold 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.”