Bible Tweet Trial: Finland’s State Prosecutor Files Appeal
: “I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts. As far as the European Court of Human rights, if necessary.”
HELSINKI — Finland’s state prosecutor has filed an appeal after a court in Helsinki dismissed “hate speech” charges against a Christian MP.
The state prosecutor had seven days to decide whether to appeal following the district court’s dismissal of all charges against Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, and Juhana Pohjola, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland.
“After my full exoneration in court, I am dismayed that the prosecutor will not let this campaign against me drop,” said Räsänen, a physician and mother of five.
“And yet, the prosecutor’s decision to appeal may lead to the case going all the way to the Supreme Court, offering the possibility of securing a positive precedent for freedom of speech and religion for all Finnish people. Also, I am happy that this decision will lead to the discussion of the Bible’s teachings in society.”
She added: “I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts. As far as the European Court of Human rights, if necessary.”
After a trial that drew international attention, the Helsinki District Court declared in a unanimous 28-page ruling on March 30 that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.”
It said that Räsänen had sought to “defend the concept of family and marriage between a man and a woman.” If some people found the statements offensive, it said, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.”
It ordered the state to pay legal costs to the defense of more than 60,000 euros (around $66,000).
The charges against Räsänen relate to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet, her appearance in a 2018 radio debate, and a Twitter post in 2019.
The Prosecutor General charged Räsänen with incitement against a minority group, arguing that her statements were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”
The charge against Pohjola concerned his decision to publish Räsänen’s pamphlet, Male and Female He Created Them.
Paul Coleman, executive director of the Christian legal group ADF International, said: “The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution despite such a clear and unanimous ruling by the Helsinki District Court is alarming.”
“Dragging people through the courts for years, subjecting them to hour-long police interrogations, and wasting taxpayer money in order to police people’s deeply held beliefs has no place in a democratic society.”
“As is so often the case in ‘hate speech’ trials, the process has become part of the punishment.”