Rome Newsroom, Nov 14, 2023 / 04:55 am (CNA).
A court of appeal dismissed all charges of “hate speech” and “ethnic agitation” against Finnish lawmaker Päivi Räsänen on Tuesday in what has been hailed as a victory for free speech.
The Finnish member of parliament had been charged in 2021 after publicly sharing in 2019 her biblical, religious views on marriage as between one man and one woman.
Though Räsänen, 63, was unanimously acquitted by a Finnish District Court in 2022, prosecutors appealed her acquittal to the Helsinki Court of Appeal. The former minister of the interior faced the possibility of tens of thousands of Euros in fines and two years in prison.
On Nov. 14, the Helsinki Court of Appeal unanimously ruled to uphold the 2022 acquittal, finding that it had “no reason, on the basis of the evidence received at the main hearing, to assess the case in any respect differently from the District Court. There is therefore no reason to alter the final result of the District Court’s judgment.”
The charges against a Finnish Lutheran bishop named Juhana Pohjola were also dismissed by the court of appeal on Nov. 14. Pohjola had also been tried for hate speech for publishing a pamphlet written by Räsänen in 2004 that advocated for the biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage.
“I am deeply relieved,” Räsänen said Nov. 14 via a statement from her legal representatives, the Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF). “The court has fully endorsed and upheld the decision of the district court, which recognized everyone’s right to free speech.”
“It isn’t a crime to tweet a Bible verse, or to engage in public discourse with a Christian perspective,” the mother of five and grandmother of 11 added. “The attempts made to prosecute me for expressing my beliefs have resulted in an immensely trying four years, but my hope is that the result will stand as a key precedent to protect the human right to free speech. I sincerely hope other innocent people will be spared the same ordeal for simply voicing their convictions.”
In the 2019 tweet that landed Räsänen in legal troubles, she criticized her denomination for embracing LGBTQ+ ideology, asking how these views could be reconciled with Scripture. In the tweet, she referenced Romans 1:24-27, which clearly states that homosexual activity is against God’s will.
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International and a member of Räsänen’s legal team said: “While we celebrate this monumental victory, we also remember that it comes after four years of police investigations, criminal indictments, prosecutions, and court hearings.”
“So-called ‘hate-speech’ laws,” are a “grave threat to our democracies,” he argued.
“We applaud the Helsinki Court of Appeal’s ruling in this case, and we work towards the bigger victory when such ludicrous cases are no longer brought,” Coleman added. “In a free and democratic society, all should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship.”