Senior Finnish politician Päivi Räsänen is facing being hauled through the courts again over “homophobic” Tweets and writings going back 20 years, despite having been acquitted in the case twice already.
The Finnish Public Prosecutor is appealing a November 2023 court decision that Päivi Räsänen, a long-serving member of Parliament, party leader, and former national interior minister was exercising free speech when she quoted the bible and discussed homosexuality on several occasions from 2004 to 2019. Räsänen is the former leader of the Finnish Christian Democrats Party and holds orthodox views on the issue, having described homosexuality as a “disorder of psychosexual development” in the past and quoted verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans on Instagram.
The District Court of Helsinki has already acquitted Räsänen unanimously on the hate speech charges in 2022, which were filed under the part of Finland’s criminal code which deals with “war crimes and crimes against humanity”, ruling “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts”. This was appealed, taking it to the Helsinki Court of Appeal which again dismissed the case unanimously, and on the same grounds, in November of last year.
The Public Prosecutor is now pushing the matter up to the Supreme Court, reports Finnish public broadcaster YLE, claiming it wants to settle the relationship “between freedom of religion and freedom of speech and the prohibition of discrimination, and when expressions must be considered as punishable hate speech”. The prosecutor is calling for hefty fines and censorship of Räsänen’s writings.
The fresh prosecution is apparently going ahead despite Räsänen’s Christian Democrats Party now being in government, as part of the new Finnish right-wing coalition.
The Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF), which has supported Räsänen, has called the dogged determination of the prosecutor to get a conviction out of Räsänen concerning and suggested the prosecutor was using the endless court cases as a means to punish Räsänen, even if they never end in a sentence.
Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF, said of the case: “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 the punishment.”
Räsänen herself remains bullish, vowing to fight and welcoming the chance to get another ruling in her favour in the highest court of the land, which would set a strong precedent in favour of free speech.
She is reported to have said: “After my full exoneration in two courts, I’m not afraid of a hearing before the Supreme Court. Even though I am fully aware that every trial carries risks, an acquittal from the Supreme Court would set an even stronger positive precedent for everyone’s right to free speech and religion. And if the Court decided to overturn the lower courts’ acquittals, I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as the European Court of Human rights, if necessary”.