Member of Finnish Parliament faces two years in prison for tweeting a post questioning her church’s alignment with a gay pride parade and for other statements expressing what she said was the point of view of the Bible on homosexuality.
Dr Päivi Räsänen, doctor and former interior minister of the country, faces trial in November for “incitement to [an] ethnic group ”, as stated by Finnish Attorney General Raija Toiviainen in a announcement.
Ms Toiviainen said that Dr Räsänen “violates[d] equality and human dignity for homosexuals ”by posting verses from the New Testament Book of Romans online; publish a 2004 brochure calling homosexuality “a scientifically proven psychosexual developmental disorder”; and talk about homosexuality on a Finnish radio show.
“I am ready to defend freedom of expression and freedom of religion as much as necessary,” Dr Räsänen said by email.
“The purpose of my tweet was by no means to insult sexual minorities,” she said. “My criticism was aimed at the church leaders and their decision regarding the pride of Helsinki. A citizen filed a criminal complaint against me and the police opened a criminal investigation into the tweet. “
In May, a group of 10 American academics and human rights activists published an open letter calling on the Biden administration to sanction the Finnish prosecutor under the Global Magnitsky Act, a law allowing the United States to punish “serious” violations. human rights.
Dr Räsänen said further criminal complaints have been filed against her, the Finnish Luther Foundation and Reverend Juhana Pohjola, who is now bishop of the Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission.
The prosecutor said her “mission … is to combat hate speech,” noted Dr Räsänen, “and I guess I am now being used as a precedent when testing the limits of freedom of expression and particular of freedom of religion. The impact of LGBT defenders is also strong in Finnish society.
“I have been an MP for 26 years and all this time I have been open to my faith and Christian values,” she said.
Dr Räsänen said Finnish law requires the national church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, to “confess its faith and actions” in public. “I am a member of the local church board, so I think I have not only permission but also a duty to evaluate my church’s actions in light of the Bible.”
More than imprisonment, Dr Räsänen said she feared an order to remove her social media posts or a ban on publishing her brochure on homosexuality. “This could pave the way for new publication bans and modern book fireworks,” she said.
Arielle del Turco, deputy director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Family Research Council, told the Washington Times that the lawsuits against Dr Räsänen “are of great concern.”
Ms del Turco expressed dismay “that a member of the Finnish Parliament could be charged with simply expressing a religious belief. The world will watch this matter; they are watching what will and will happen in Finland. … Instead of controlling religious expression, the Finnish government should be much more concerned with protecting fundamental freedoms.
She said the Family Research Council felt “it is important” that Ms. Toiviainen drops the charges.
Another supporter of the Finnish lawmaker is Reverend Dennis Di Mauro, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Warrenton, Va. He staged a protest outside the Finnish Embassy in Washington on July 31 and said he planned to hold another protest ahead of the November trial if the charges were not dropped.
Mr Di Mauro said Dr Räsänen “sent me a very good email and she told me how important it was that we did this [protest] for her.”
While she is obviously hoping to win, Dr Räsänen said she was ready for a negative result.
“I think this whole chain of events is part of my calling as a Christian influencer,” said Dr Räsänen. “A conviction based on Christian faith is more than [surface] opinion. The early Christians did not give up their faith in the lion pits. Why should I give up my faith in the courtrooms? “