Liveblog (closed): Trial against Christian MP Pävi Räsänen will resume in February

24-01-2022

Northern Europe

CNE.news

Photo Ilkka Kontturi/CNE

The Finnish Christian politician Päivi Räsänen has to answer the court on Monday, for her statements about the Biblical teaching on homosexuality. She is facing three criminal charges. Follow the trial live with updates from our reporter in Finland, Danielle Miettinen. (This blog uses Central European Time (CET), which is one hour ahead of Eastern European Time (EET) in Helsinki, Finland.)

Refresh the webpage to read the latest updates.

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Mrs Päivi Räsänen making a phone call during a break between the hearings. Photo Danielle Miettinen

17:03: The court has adjourned. Meaning: end of the hearing today. Continuation is expected on February 14th. It is not clear how the hearing will be continued.

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16:49: The Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola is called to answer questions of the prosecutor: "The booklet stands on the Christian understanding of human being. Sin affects every human being to the core. But the grace of God is also universal. He wants to forgive the sins of every human being."

16:46: The prosecutor asks Räsänen: The mainstream Christianity understands that the Bible must be interpreted in the historical, social and cultural context. Why do you interpret the passages about homosexuality literally?"
Räsänen answers: "The Bible is very clear about marriage ethics. Christian denominations (also Protestant) teach that marriage is intended between male and female and that homosexual acts are against the will of God. This is not private thinking. Also, the Lutheran church teaches that the marriage is between male and female."

16:27: On Twitter, most of the traffic comes from Räsänen's Christian supporters. Just a few of them disagree openly. Nevertheless, many of them support the freedom to say that homosexual practise is sinful.

16:11: Räsänen's tweet was not a message to the Pride movement but to the leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church that supported the Pride events. "The leadership of the Lutheran people's church was in disagreement about homosexuality when I uploaded the tweet. Bishops came out with contradictive statements."

16:06: Räsänen reads the entire passage from Romans 1 in the courtroom (verse 24-27, quoted here in English from the ESV):

24 Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason, God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

15.54: Räsänen continues: "The prosecutor's allegation that I would hold the homosexuals inferior is insulting. It insults both me and the homosexuals. I have not said this, and I do not think so."

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15:40: Räsänen is asked to explain why she wrote the pamphlet "Male and female He created" in 2004. She tells that the Mission Diocese ordered the booklet for teaching purposes in the diocese. The booklet was also meant to be a contribution to the discussion about marriage theology in the Lutheran people's church. She was also concerned about the influence of the change of the marriage concept for children. "The whole booklet is based upon the Christian perception of human being."

15:32: Lawyer's break.

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Räsänen's lawyer Matti Sankamo (left) and Pohjola's counsel Jyrki Anttinen (right). Photo Danielle Miettinen

15:14: During the break, the two accused talk together.

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Räsänen (left) and Pohjola (middle). Photo Danielle Miettinen

15:05: Evidence of the prosecutor has been heard now. The court takes a 15 minute break and will continue with the defence witnesses.

14:55: Parts of the radio program are played in the courtroom. In the program, Räsänen says that God created male and female and intended the marriage for these two. Therefore, sex outside marriage is sin.

14:37: The discussion focuses on the radio program "What did Jesus think of the homosexuals?" Päivi Räsänen was part of this broadcast in December 2019. Parts of this program are played in the courtroom. The host of the show was cultural influencer Ruben Stiller, an agnostic and sympathetic Jew. The program had a satirical character.

14:32: The defence of bishop Pohjola gets his turn. Lawyer Anttinen highlights that the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland explains that its beliefs are based on the Bible and the Lutheran confession. Juhana Pohjola is the bishop of this Mission Diocese.

14:13: The prosecutor (Anu Mantila) says that in the court the decisions are made according to the Finnish law, not according to the Bible. The judge confirms that this is the case.

14:09: Lawyer Sankamo reads Paul's letter to the Romans (in the New Testament of the Bible) and tries to explain what sin means as a theological concept. He continues by saying, that considering something being sin does not give any right to despise the sinner.

14:00: An apple a day, keeps the doctor away. Niilo and Päivi Räsänen dig an apple and some juice from Päivi's bag, before the court continues.

13.37: The court takes a short break.

13:27: The prosecutor states that it is harmful to disapprove a non-heteronormative lifestyle, especially for the LGBT youth.

13:19: In answer to the defence, the prosecutor reads the opinion of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. That authoritative institute says that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are similar in essence. Therefore, homosexuality is not abnormal.

13:16: According to the Christian magazine Uusitie, the number of supporters at the courthouse this morning was 85. A bit lower than expected and hoped. Almost all demonstrators were Christians who came for Räsänen and Pohjola. It seems that the LGBT movement is not very visible around the trial.

12:57: The lawyer reads from the booklet:
The registration of homosexual partnerships is a question of values, not a question of human rights. From a human rights perspective, every human being is treated as a citizen with equal rights, irrespective of sexual orientation. A human rights perspective does not presuppose same-sex marriages. Our fundamental rights quite correctly prohibit discrimination against people based, inter alia, on sexual inclination, but this does not require the elevation of anomalous relationships to the status of marriage. Our Constitution also prohibits discrimination on the basis of religious convictions, but it does not require the marriage law to be change.

12:55: The pamphlet was quite unknown and almost forgotten, until an activist got interested in it, writes Santeri Marjokorpi in a tweet in Finnish.

12:51: Lawyer Sankamo is reading passages of Räsänen's pamphlet "Male and female He created them".

12:43: The lawyer of the accused Lutheran pastor, Mr Juhana Pohjola, is starting to respond. Mr Pohjola was the publisher of Räsänen's booklet "Male and female He created" in 2004 and therefore charged with taking part in the hatred.

12:39: According to Räsänen's lawyer, it could not be so that it is unlawful to criticise the LGBT or Pride movement. That would imply that the whole political discourse will be silenced.

12:36: Lawyer Sankamo says that the Pride movement does not represent all people who belong to the sexual minorities.

12:29: Päivi Räsänen's lawyer continues his response to the prosecutor's charges.

11:59: This tweet refers to an article that clarifies the unique legal nature of this court case. Never before a Finnish court had to decide whether quoting the Bible is a crime or not. In fact, this is not only the case for Finland but for the whole of Europe (article in Finnish).

11:31: During the lunch break, Päivi Räsänen answers questions from reporters about the distinction between the value of the human being and his or her deeds. "God loves the sinner but not sin. This is fundamental in Christianity", Mrs Räsänen says.

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Räsänen answering questions from reporters. Photo Danielle Miettinen

11:20: After having listened to both the prosecutor and the defence, the court is going for a lunch break until 12.15 CET (13.15 local time).

11:17: The context, the timing and the whole message of the pamphlet excludes the possibility that the pamphlet is against the law.

11:09: Räsänen's lawyer is stating that the prosecutor is wrong. Räsänen does hold the following beliefs: All humans are equal; God has created both the homosexuals and the heterosexuals; all people have sinned against God.

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11:06: The debate in the courtroom is focussing on the booklet Räsänen wrote in 2004. The English text of this brochure is on the web.

10:56: According to Mr Sankamo, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR in Strasbourg) stated that the use of strong language and even language that some would find insulting, should not be a reason to criminalise speech. Otherwise, this would lead to the silencing of all political discourse.

10:50: Räsänen's lawyer Matti Sankamo starts responding to the prosecution. He says that the pamphlet that Päivi wrote together with Juhana Pohjola, reflects the understanding of social phenomena of that time. It was written in 2003 and published in 2004.

10:30: After the prosecutor's statement, the proceedings are paused for a few minutes. Räsänen and Pohjola speak to their aides and advocates.

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Photo Danielle Miettinen

10:15: In a private chat with our reporter in the courtroom, ADF International lawyer Paul Coleman says: "There are no witnesses in court. And neither are there any victims. The prosecutor speaks on behalf of the people who are not present. Is it no patronising to dare to speak on behalf of an entire group of people?"

10:09: According to the prosecutor, it is not innocent to say that homosexuality is a sin. On the contrary, it could be more serious saying that it is a sin than a crime. To condemn an act means condemning the person. To condemn homosexual acts means breaking the identity of the homosexual person.

10:06: Räsänen's ally Santeri Marjokorpi is producing a detailed Twitter thread from the courtroom (Finnish only).

9:57: The prosecutor anticipates on Räsänen's defence, namely that she loves her (homosexual) neighbour, but not his sinful behaviour. That's wrong, says the prosecutor. He states that homosexual acts cannot be distinguished from the person's sexual identity.

9:51: According to the prosecutor, the international psychiatric community says that sexual identity is not something that can cured or should be cured.

9:49: The prosecutor alleges that Päivi Räsänen is not using rude language. But she uses terms that are discriminatory and offensive. She portrays homosexuals as immoral and psychosexual broken.

9:45: An ADF expert explains in an article how it could come that quoting the Bible became a crime. According to the author, this has to do with vaguely worded anti-hatred laws. "Räsänen's tweet is a canary in the legislative coal mine."

9:26: On Twitter, many people are active around the topic "Rasanan". There is a lot of support.

9:16: The prosecutor says, this is not about theology or interpreting the Bible. The charges are not about the fact that Räsänen is quoting the Bible. Neither are these charges about the freedom of interpreting the Bible how they wish. Everybody has the freedom of religion and belief. Everybody may believe and think what he wants. But expressing all this has boundaries, according to the prosecutor.

9:13: On Sunday afternoon, 120 people came together at the Finnish Embassy in Oslo, Norway. Both Vart Land and Norge Idag reports that.

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Still from video Norge Idag

9:07: Räsänen says she is not guilty of hatred or discrimination.

9:05: The prosecutor demands that Räsänen removes from the public space everything she said about the Biblical teaching on homosexuality. He reads the charges against Päivi Räsänen and Juhana Pohjola. The lastest is the Lutheran bishop with whom Räsänen wrote a booklet in 2004 under the title: Male and female God created. The prosecutor has offered a summary in English.

Räsänen press release by Lennart Nijenhuis on Scribd

8:40: Many fellow Christians from Räsänen have come to the courthouse. "We hold the same beliefs as Päivi Räsänen but are not prosecuted today. The least we can do is support her by this demonstration and show the world that many people will not abandon the Biblical truths, no matter the consequences", some demonstrators said.

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Soili Haverinen at the left and Mirja-Riitta Sjöholm at the right. They are both active in the organisation founded last year to support free speech and freedom of religion. Photo Danielle Miettinen

08:22: Päivi Räsänen arrived at the courthouse surrounded by national and international media. With the Bible in her hands, she emphasised the importance of speaking the Biblical truths in the public space. "This is of utmost importance because the saving gospel of Jesus Christ has been given to us in the Bible. The cross of Christ shows the greatest love for both heterosexuals and homosexuals."

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Photo Danielle Miettinen

07:37: The first supporters and media arrived at the courthouse before 07:00 AM. Soili Haverinen (left) is one of the organisers of the demonstration in support of the prosecuted MP Päivi Räsänen. The demonstration started at 07:30 AM. On the right is communications officer Sofia Hoerder from ADF international. ADF is an American nonprofit advocacy group. In the middle executive director Paul Coleman from ADF international and documentarist Miisa Latikka, who belongs to the crew of the group making a documentary film of Päivi Räsänen's law case.

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Photo Danielle Miettinen

07:30: The American ADF International is a Christian legal advocacy organisation that has been supporting Räsänen for the past two years. Recently, they published a video interview with her.


07:15: Welcome to this liveblog. At 9.30 am (local time, 08:30 am CET), the trial against MP Païvi Räsänen will start.

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