Finland Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen is facing a second prosecution, this time for "hate speech." The 62-year-old medical doctor and grandmother of seven was previously charged with the same offense in 2020, along with a Lutheran bishop, after posting Bible verses on her various social media accounts.
Räsänen is a former leader of Finland’s Christian Democrats and has been unapologetic about her positions. She responded to the charge, saying “I stand behind the Bible, whatever the consequences are. For Christians, the Bible is the word of God, and we must have the possibility of agreeing with it.”
The arrest and interrogation are being described as melodramatic by some. According to Räsänen, the police asked her three times in each interrogation if she would leave her teachings in writing. She said no.
During the prior trial, Prosecutor Anu Mantila said, “If so, the views of the Bible have supplanted the Finnish Constitution,” drawing an obscure comparison of the Bible to Mein Kampf. The prosecutor pointed to the alleged anti-LGBTQ content contained in the Bible, labeling it “hateful.”
Ultimately, the court ruled in her favor, but the prosecution has appealed and Räsänen is now facing the possibility of a second conviction. If convicted, she could face severe punishment, up to as much as 120 days’ pay in fines.
The case has been blasted as an infringement on freedom of speech and freedom of religion by both Räsänen’s supporters and by those advocating for religious liberty in general. In a nation that is officially Christian, Räsänen’s arrest has raised concerns that Christianity is now being targeted specifically due to its religious or moral implications.
These concerns echo similar episodes occurring around the world, like in Canada, where psychologist and public figure Jordan Peterson was recently fined and placed under re-education for expressing allegedly offensive opinions.
The outcome of Räsänens trial will be a decisive indicator of what freedoms of religion and of speech are still accepted in European countries.
It remains to be seen how successfully Räsänen will be able to defend her freedom of expression in the daunting Finnish legal system, as she vows to do. Whatever the outcome, her case will have far-reaching implications as to the status of Christianity and freedom of speech in the nation.