A senior Christian Democrat lawmaker in Finland is facing up to two years in prison after being charged with hate speech over LGBT-critical comments made on social media, including quoting a verse from the Bible.
Päivi Räsänen, a member of the Finnish parliament who served as interior minister for 2012 to 2015, has been charged three counts of incitement aimed at a minority group, for social media posts she made during the summer of 2019, where she questioned why her church — the Evangelical Lutheran Church — was co-sponsoring the Helsinki LGBT Pride event, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reports.
Räsänen, in her social media posts which were uploaded to several platforms, wrote, “The church of which I am a member has announced that it is an official partner of SETA Helsinki Pride 2019. How does the Church’s doctrine, the Bible, fit in with the idea that shame and sin are raised as a matter of pride?”
In her posts, Räsänen included a photo of the Bible passage Romans Chapter one, verses 24-27, which condemns homosexuality as a sin.
Raija Toiviainen, the prosecutor general who brought the charges against the former interior minister, said that Räsänen’s statements were “derogatory and discriminatory against homosexuals”, “violate their quality and dignity”, and exceed “the boundaries of free speech and religion”.
Toiviainen also claims that Räsänen’s comments are “likely to fuel intolerance, contempt, and hatred.”
Räsänen called the charges brought against her as “shocking” and “surprising”.
In an interview with the Finnish national broadcaster, Räsänen responded to the charges, saying, “This is deeply about freedom of religion and freedom of expression. If these writings are banned, then much more will be banned. Then come the modern book burnings that target the teachings of the Bible. I will not apologize for the teaching of the Bible — I stand by them.”
“The question is about the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and the Christian faith. The Bible’s teaching is, however, that marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.”
“I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting any group of people. These are all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality,” Räsänen told Yle.
Räsänen, who happens to be a doctor by education, said that she would go to trial “… with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion… are respected.”
Paul Coleman, the head of ADF International — a Christian legal group which defends religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage, and family around the world — has weighed in on the charges brought forth against the Finnish lawmaker, saying, “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,” Coleman added.
Authoritarian anti-free speech laws across Western Europe continue to target Christians. Late last month, United Kingdom Pastor Dale McAlpine was arrested and charged with causing “harassment, alarm, or distress” after a LGBt police community support officer (PSCO) overheard him describing homosexual conduct as a sin in a public sermon.