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HELSINKI, Finland (ChurchMilitant.com) - A seventh-term Finnish parliamentarian is facing prison for tweeting verses from St. Paul's letter to the Romans and expressing biblical views on homosexuality in a pamphlet and a talk show.
Finland's prosecutor-general charged Dr. Päivi Räsänen with three counts of "incitement" against homosexuals, accusing her of breaching "the boundaries of freedom of speech and freedom of religion," a press release from the National Prosecution Authority said Thursday.
Räsänen — a medical doctor who was Finland's interior minister between 2011 and 2014 and a leader of the Christian Democrats who has served as a member of Finland's Parliament since 1995 — revealed that she learned of the prosecutor's charges on the phone.
"I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group, which carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years," Räsänen told Church Militant, calling the decision of prosecutor-general Ms. Raija Toiviainen "surprising, even shocking."
The lawmaker, a Lutheran, rejected accusations that she was "threatening, defaming or insulting a minority group," insisting that "in all these three cases, the question is about the Bible's teaching about marriage and sexuality." The three charges carry a total prison sentence of six years.
One of the three charges is against Räsänen's June 2019 tweet quoting Romans 1:24–27, wherein St. Paul describes men and women exchanging "natural relations for those that are contrary to nature" and "receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."
The tweet, which was accompanied by a photograph of the biblical text, questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church's official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019. Räsänen also published the tweet on her Facebook and Instagram pages.
Räsänen told Church Militant:
The Apostle Paul's teaching is not only about defending marriage between man and woman, but about how a human being is saved into eternal life. If the teachings of God's word about sin are rejected, also the whole core of Christian faith is made empty — the precious sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for the sake of everyone's sins and the way He opened into eternity.
Police accused Räsänen of "hate speech" after she posted the tweet and subjected her to a four-hour interrogation, alleging she had committed the crime of "ethnic agitation," which carries a maximum penalty of two years of imprisonment.
In December 2019, talk show host Ruben Stiller interviewed Räsänen on the Finnish Broadcasting System. The show was titled What Would Jesus Think About Homosexuals?
The doctor addressed the biblical teaching on Jesus, creation, sin, judgment and salvation.
"I emphasized that all men, regardless of their sexual orientation, are on the same line before God — all valuable, but all also sinful and in need of Jesus' redemptive work in order to inherit eternal life," Räsänen said.
While police decided not to investigate a complaint against the radio and television shows, the prosecutor-general did order a pretrial investigation and has included Räsänen's broadcast and televised statements as one of the charges against the parliamentarian.
The prosecutor-general's third charge involves a booklet written by the doctor in 2004 titled: Male and Female He Created Them — Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity.
Charges have also been filed against the booklet's editor-in-chief, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, who authorized the publication of the tract. Police interrogated Pohjola for five hours in February 2020.
Prosecutor-general Toiviainen has labeled Räsänen's statements as "derogatory and discriminatory against homosexuals" and "likely to fuel intolerance, contempt and hatred."
Räsänen further told Church Militant she "will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected."
"The early Christians did not renounce their Faith in lions' den; why should I then renounce my Faith in a courtroom," she said, emphasizing she would not "step back from my conviction nor from my writings."
"I do not apologize for the writings of the Apostle Paul either. I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as is necessary," Räsänen insisted. "The Bible's teaching is very clear that marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God's will."
The Alliance Defending Freedom International said it would continue to support Räsänen's defense.
"If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone's right to speak freely," stressed Paul Coleman, executive director of Alliance Defending Freedom International and author of Censored: How European Hate Speech Laws Are Threatening Freedom of Speech.
"Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy. The Finnish prosecutor-general's decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship. It is sobering that such cases are becoming all too common throughout Europe," concluded Coleman.