Päivi Räsänen, a Christian Finnish MP, was acquitted on November 14 by the Helsinki Court of Appeal. She was accused of “inciting hatred” against the LGBT community. ADF International, which coordinated her legal defense, welcomed this news, affirming that “freedom of speech” had won.
Finnish Christian MP Päivi Räsänen was tried, then acquitted, on March 30, 2022 for “incitement to hatred” towards the LGBT community. She was accused of sharing her religious views on marriage and homosexuality on X in 2019, on the radio and in a pamphlet published in 2004.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Missionary Diocese of Finland was prosecuted for publishing the MP's work for his own congregation. In its judgment, the district court indicated that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts”.
However, the public prosecutor had appeals this decision in April 2022. According to him, Räsänen's "interpretation and opinion on the biblical verses" are "criminal". For her part, the MP affirmed that she was “ready to defend freedom of expression and religion”, not only for her, “but for everyone”.
Last Tuesday, the Court of Appeal rendered its judgment, and acquitted Päivi Räsänen. A decision that delights the Finnish MP.
Niilon kanssa tänään iloitsimme Hovioikeuden vapauttavasta päätöksestä. (Kuva Kriske Kunnas) pic.twitter.com/JIuQlgNlyL— Päivi Rasanen (@PaiviRasanen) November 14, 2023
“Niilo and I welcome the Court of Appeal’s acquittal decision today.”
In their verdict, the judges also acquitted the bishop. They said there was "no reason, based on the evidence received at the main hearing, to evaluate the case in any way differently than the district court." They added that "there is therefore no reason to change the final outcome of the trial."
ADF International, the human rights association in charge of the Päivi Räsänen case, agreed with the Court of Appeal's decision on X.
BREAKING: FREE SPEECH VICTORY FOR FINNISH POLITICIAN ON TRIAL FOR A BIBLE VERSE TWEET!!— ADF International (@ADFIntl) November 14, 2023
The Helsinki District Court has ruled UNANIMOUSLY that @PaiviRasanen and Bishop Pohjola are NOT GUILTY of "hate speech".
Reactions & more in our PRESS RELEASE: https://t.co/Swm8fBAWrv pic.twitter.com/jBmUyVBhxC
In one communicated, the association expresses the “incessant pressure” that “this committed civil servant and grandmother” had to experience, “for having shared her convictions in public”.
Thus, "Päivi's beliefs, rooted in the Bible and Christian tradition", and the reactions they have provoked, show according to ADF International "how far the prosecution is prepared to go to silence and sanction speeches which do not conform to one's own worldview.
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, concluded the statement by saying that "in a free and democratic society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. He added that "the criminalization of speech through “Hate speech” laws end important public debates and pose a serious threat to our democracies.