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Defense filed in Bible tweet 'hate speech' case at Finland's Supreme Court

Long-serving parliamentarian, grandmother Päivi Räsänen to stand trial for third time for expressing Christian beliefs on marriage, sexuality
Paul Coleman with Päivi Räsänen in a hallway

HELSINKI – Former government minister and sitting Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen has submitted her defense to the Finnish Supreme Court ahead of standing trial a third time for tweeting a Bible verse in a post questioning her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event. Her legal team, backed by ADF International, asked the court to dismiss the case and award costs to Räsänen.

The state prosecutor appealed the case despite the Christian grandmother of 12 being acquitted unanimously of “hate speech” charges before both the Helsinki District Court and the Court of Appeal. The charges are found under the “war crimes and crimes against humanity” section of the Finnish Criminal Code.

“At the heart of the trial is the question of whether teachings linked to the Bible can be displayed and agreed with. I consider it a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression, which is a core right in a democratic state,” Räsänen said. “My religious conviction has been buffeted about by the Prosecutor’s Office of Finland during the five years of this legal saga. An acquittal by the Supreme Court would serve as a stronger precedent than lower court rulings for subsequent similar charges. It would provide a clearer and stronger safeguard for the freedom of Christians to present the teachings of the Bible—and it would strengthen the principle of freedom of expression in general.”

Police investigations against Räsänen started in June 2019. As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran church, she addressed the leadership of her church on Twitter/X and questioned its official sponsorship of the LGBT event ‘Pride 2019.’ She included an image of Bible verses from the New Testament book of Romans.

Following the tweet, further investigations against Räsänen were launched, including scrutiny of a church pamphlet she wrote 20 years ago on the words “male and female he created them” contained in Genesis 1:27. Over several months, Räsänen endured a total of 13 hours of police interrogations about her Christian beliefs, including being frequently asked by the police to explain her understanding of the Bible.

In the newly filed defense, Räsänen’s legal team explains that she has the right to freedom of expression in international law, and that so-called hate speech laws do not extinguish that right. They once again pointed out that Räsänen has consistently held that all people have dignity and should not be discriminated against, a position inconsistent with the behavior of somebody guilty of spreading “hate.”

“Vague or far-reaching laws against advocacy of hatred, or blasphemy, offence to religious feelings and similar offences are not only arbitrary; they can also lead to the direct and structural marginalization of religious or belief communities,” the defense submission states.

“This was not just about my opinions, but about everyone’s freedom of expression,” said Räsänen. “I hope that, with the ruling of the Supreme Court, others will not have to undergo the same ordeal.”

Räsänen’s case will again be heard alongside the case of Bishop Juhana Pohjola, who faces charges for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet two decades ago. Their cases have garnered global media attention, as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat posed to free speech in Finland.

“This is a watershed case in the story of Europe’s creeping censorship,” said ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman. “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. 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 every step of the way as they face their next day in court. Their right to speak freely is everyone’s right to speak freely.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Päivi Räsänen (PI’-vee RAHZ’-uh-nen)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Paul Coleman, Executive Director, ADF International
Paul Coleman
Executive Director, ADF International
Paul Coleman serves as executive director of ADF International from its headquarters in Vienna, overseeing the advocacy and operations of the global, alliance-building legal organization.