A Finnish politician and bishop are both facing a criminal trial starting Jan. 24 over the charge they violated the dignity and equality of the LGBTQ population by engaging in hate speech.
The free speech case centers on politician Päivi Räsänen, a member of the Finnish parliament and a longtime politician who also happens to be an outspoken Christian.
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Räsänen, 62, is accused of sparking anti-gay sentiment at least three times: during a talk show, in a 2019 tweet, and in a book she wrote titled, “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity.” The pamphlet takes a stand against same-sex marriage, Christianity Today reported.
Also under fire is Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) Bishop Juhana Pohjola, 49, whose organization published the aforementioned book. As The Reporter noted last year, Pohjola was charged by Finland’s Office of the Prosecutor General with creating incitement against a group of people.
The ELMDF, a religious body comprised of churches that broke away from Finland’s national church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, over doctrinal issues, is being held liable for the book, which was published in 2004.
And since Pohjola is editor-in-chief of publications distributed by the Luther Foundation Finland — the legal group behind ELMDF — he has found himself in the crosshairs.
“This decision of the prosecutor general says a lot about our time,” Pohjola told The Reporter last year. “While I am concerned about the state of religious freedom in our country, I trust that the judiciary will make the right decision.”
That said, Pohjola more recently told Christianity Today he has deep worries about the implications the court proceedings could have for individuals in Finland.
In particular, the faith leader is concerned about self-censorship predicated on fear.
“I do not so much fear the outcome of the court case, but the strong signal it gives to many: to be silent,” he told the outlet. “I fear self-censorship and intimidation.”
Pohjola said he believes in the “God-given dignity, value and human rights of those who identify themselves as homosexuals,” but that he also holds to the biblical belief same-sex acts are sinful and not in line with the truth.
As for Räsänen’s part, she told Christianity Today she was surprised she was being criminally charged over her views on these matters.
“Being criminally charged for voicing my deeply held beliefs in a country that has such deep roots in freedom of speech and religion feels unreal,” she said. “I do not see I would have in any way defamed homosexuals whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend.”
#kirkko on ilmoittanut olevansa #seta n #Pride2019 virallinen partneri. Miten kirkon oppiperusta, #raamattu sopii yhteen sen kanssa, että häpeä ja synti nostetaan ylpeyden aiheeksi? pic.twitter.com/cnjAQCrOc2
— Päivi Räsänen (@PaiviRasanen) June 17, 2019
As CBN News previously reported, Räsänen, who has been under investigation since 2019, was charged with three counts of hate speech and could face two years in prison. One of the elements that landed her in the crosshairs is a tweet from June 17, 2019, in which she presented Romans 1:24-27, which condemns homosexuality as sinful.
Räsänen told CBN News last year she believes the charges against her will inevitably speak to whether a person in Finland is free to express his or her biblical convictions.
For those still confused as to why this case is unfolding, consider that the Office of the Prosecutor General believes Räsänen’s comments and statements aren’t merely unpalatable, but that they are likely to cause hatred and intolerance. It is believed by the prosecutor that these statements “transcend freedom of speech and religion” because they targeted the “equality and dignity of homosexuals,” as Christianity Today recapped.
With the trial just weeks away, it seems much is at stake in Finland, particularly when it comes to religious liberty and the potential criminal treatment of longstanding Christian sexual ethics.
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