Liveblog (closed): Charges are dropped in case against Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen
The three judges in the Finnish court have decided that the charges against Päivi Räsänen have no ground. She was accused of discrimination and insulting homosexuals. Follow this liveblog for reports from our Finnish reporter Danielle Miettinen in Helsinki and reactions from the wider world. (We use Central European Summer Time (CEST), which is one hour after the clock in Helsinki, Finland.)
11:58 Charges are dropped in the case against Räsänen. That means that she is acquitted. Source is Yle, the Finnish public broadcaster. That organisation was part of the case.
12:10 The press release from the Helsinki District Court confirms that the court dismissed the charges of incitement. The court concludes that Mrs Räsänen has only spoken within the legal boundaries of the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. "However, restrictions on freedom of speech and expression are subject to a compelling social reason", the press release says. "The right of persons belonging to sexual minorities [and] the dignity and equality of sexual minorities may be such a reason." But still, the court thinks that Mrs Räsänen has acted within the boundaries of the law.
12:15 MP Päivi Räsänen and bishop Juhana Pohjola appear before the press. They are relieved, they say. Mrs Räsänen says she is "thankful for all the support" that she received. According to the verdict, "this is what we expected", she says. "It is an honour to defend freedom of speech and religion. I hope that no one else has to go through this kind of process."
12:19 Mrs Räsänen is impressed by the careful decision from the court. It counts 28 pages in total. "It goes very carefully through everything that I have said and reflected that with the international agreements and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. I am happy that I have been able to speak about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation He has brought. The basic problem is that the Lutheran Church does not support the reliability of the Word of God, the Bible. That is where everything started. My opinions do not differ from the official statement about marriage of the Luther Church. The police asked me in every investigation whether I would be willing to withdraw my text. I said no. I am not going to apologise for what the apostle Paul wrote."
12:30 Mrs Räsänen is happy that the court understood all her explanations. "The prosecutor cited the Bible from many places I did not. She said that I undermined the dignity of homosexuals because of my understanding of sin. But that's not true. This is the core Christian doctrine. God hates sin but loves the sinner so much that He sent His only begotten Son to save sinners."
The Finnish MP hopes the prosecutor will end the case here. "But if not, I am ready to go through all stages till the European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg)."
12:39 Räsänen is asked whether she will quote from the Bible again in the future. Of course, she says. "I hope all of us will do that. Find the Bible on your bookshelves and read it, and read it in its own context."
It appears that all three judges in the court were of the same opinion in the case. They found that Räsänen did not have the motive to insult anybody. "This is a historic case", Räsänen says. "It is a victory for the freedom of speech and religion. If I had been judged, then the right to preach and teach and spread the Bible had become illegal."
12:50 According to Räsänen, the prosecutor had not really understood her vision. "They have brought up statements that I had never said. Like: Homosexuals are not as valuable human beings as others. And: God has not created homosexuals. I never said that. The prosecutor should not twist anybody's words like this. These ideas are strongly against my convictions. It would be terrible for homosexual people if there was a member of parliament who would think like this."
12:56 Bishop Pohjola –who is acquitted as well– reacted shortly to the verdict. "If we had been convicted, the Christian teaching of sexual ethics had become illegal."
13:03 Our reporter in Helsinki, Danielle Miettinen, got a phone call from the general prosecutor, Raija Toiviainen. She was surprised by the verdict. She had wished the court had done more weighing between the different basic rights: freedom of speech versus discrimination. She will study the verdict and then decide whether to appeal the case in a higher court. "I probably will", she said.
Originally, back in 2019, the police was not convinced that the expressions by Räsänen could make a case. But Toiviainen, as general prosecutor, decided to start an inquiry anyway.
13:09 In a more or less comparable case, a Reformed pastor in the Netherlands was freed from all legal inquiries on Wednesday as well. The Rev. Anton Kort was accused of insulting language against homosexuals, since he had spoken about “grave sins” in a letter to the municipal authorities. According to a gay activist, this had to be about homosexuality and went to the police. But the police said this was too thin to prosecute. After that, the activist asked the court for an instruction for the prosecution. On Wednesday, the judge confirmed that this case had not to be prosecuted, as the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad reports.
13:15 Räsänen is asked by several media to speak for the camera.
13:40 In the Finnish media, there are some reactions from society. Oscar Ohlis, from the Rainbow Alliance's Swedish Finland, says that the verdict was not what he expected. He says that on Yle. "It has been demeaning to us who belong to a sexual minority", says Ohlis. He believes it is good that violations against sexual minorities through the trial have been discussed in public. He still thinks that a different verdict would have been important. "A verdict would still have had a greater force, so that people would understand that you are not allowed to express yourself in any way. At the same time, we have come so far in society that many probably understand what is right and wrong", Ohlis believes. "You think that Päivi Räsänen would have understood a little earlier that you can not express yourself like this, but it is in this way she has made her political career, to go to sexual minorities."
16:22 This is a day of victory, Mrs Räsänen says in an international press conference via Zoom. "This is an important day for Bible-believing Christians, but for free speech in general. If the prosecutor will be appealing, I am happy to defend free speech in other courts and also the European court."
16:31 Bishop Juhana Pohjola is thankful that Mrs Räsänen had the courage to defend the Christian vision of marriage. "If we had lost this case, we could no longer teach the law of God and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This battle is won, but the war will continue. But the victory is already there, on the Cross. Jesus Christ will not leave us. That gives us joy."
16:48 Paul Coleman, from the supporting organisation ADF International, states that this is "a victory for everyone. This is not only for Christians, but for everybody who loves free speech, also for people from the LGBT community."
16:57 Päivi Räsänen admits that the case illustrated that the knowledge of Christianity in the Finnish Justice system is very low. "The prosecutor said that the understanding of sin was already very much insulting, since it is God who decides what sin is and what not. But I am afraid that this knowledge is no longer present generally anymore."
Bishop Pojohla adds that this illustrates that Finland is "a mission field, as the whole of Europe is a mission field." He himself is part of the Lutheran mission society.
17:13 One of the prosecutors in the case, Anu Mantila, expressed her reaction to the public broadcaster Yle. She said she was surprised by the decision. Mantila says prosecutors expected the court to strike a clearer balance between non-discrimination and equality against freedom of speech and religion. "They interpret [Räsänen's] statements differently from the prosecutor and therefore consider that the limits on freedom of expression have not been exceeded. In my view, this is precisely because this element of non-discrimination and non-equality has now not been adequately addressed."
Mantila does not consider the interpretation of the district court to be correct or fair. She does not say whether the prosecutors will go for an appeal. Within the Finnish system, there are seven days to decide about that.
End of liveblog
Liveblog (closed): Trial against Christian MP Pävi Räsänen will resume in February
Liveblog (closed): Second day of hearing in case against Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen