A Finnish MP who quoted the Bible while discussing LGBT issues has been cleared of hate speech after a four-year legal battle.
Päivi Räsänen — formerly head of Finland’s Christian Democrats, and interior minister from 2011 to 2015 — was charged with three cases of incitement against a minority group.
Räsänen wrote a pamphlet in 2004 for her church called “Man and Woman He Created Them”, claiming homosexuality was a “disorder of psychosexual development”.
She also wrote a tweet in 2019 questioning her church’s sponsorship of Helsinki Pride. Showing a passage from the Bible, she asked how “shame and sin are raised as a matter of pride”.
#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
Finnish prosecutors said her statements went beyond the bounds of free speech.
A District Court ruled in Räsänen’s favour in 2022, prompting prosecutors to appeal to the Court of Appeals.
The appeals court saw no reason “to assess the case in any respect differently from the District Court”, it says in its decision.
“There is therefore no reason to alter the final result of the District Court’s judgment,” it says.
Räsänen welcomes the verdict, saying she is “deeply relieved” the court backs her claims she is protected by a right to free expression.
“It isn’t a crime to tweet a Bible verse, or to engage in public discourse with a Christian perspective,” she says in a statement sent to Brussels Signal.
“The attempts made to prosecute me for expressing my beliefs have resulted in an immensely trying four years,” she says.
“But my hope is that the result will stand as a key precedent to protect the human right to free speech,” she adds.
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) August 25, 2023
It appears unlikely, though, the Court of Appeals ruling represents the end of Räsänen’s legal battles.
Speaking to Finnish media, state prosecutor Anu Mantila says she and her colleagues will likely appeal the legal ruling again to the Supreme Court.
The case involves “such a significant fundamental right weighing between discrimination on the one hand and freedom of speech and religion on the other,” says Mantila.
The Court of Appeal’s ruling is not detailed enough to establish a solid precedent, she argues.
“The matter should be decided by the Supreme Court,” she adds.
Räsänen is ready to fight the case in the Supreme Court, and even to “defend freedom of expression” by appealing to the European Court of Human Rights “if necessary”, she says.
Prosecutors have just under 60 days to file an appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision.
Terrorist attacks, demonstrations celebrating atrocities, anti-Semitic hate crimes: Will the events of the last two weeks be the end of the migration pact? They certainly should be, writes @Raphfel. https://t.co/nr91KC3HfB
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) October 19, 2023