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Detailled report of the Päivi Räsänen hearing

Päivi Räsänen, MP

As S4C previously reported, a juridical process was launched against former Former Finnish Minister of the Interior and member of parliament, Päivi Räsänen, for tweeting and criticising her church for sponsoring an LGBT pride event. The hearing took place on the 24th of January at 9:30 AM (local time) at the Helsinki District Court.

The press release

In a press release before the hearing with the Prosecutor General, who brought the charges against the deputy, Räsänen wrote:

“I await the court proceedings with a calm mind. I appeal to the Constitution of Finland and to international conventions that guarantee freedom of speech and religion. I will not back off from my conviction based on the Bible, and I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts.”

She also writes that the Prosecutor General is wrong about her faith and convictions. At the end of the press release, she expresses her concern that besides being possibly sentenced to prison, she can also be banned from any social media activity. In this case, “the sentence would open the floodgates to a ban on similar publications and the threat of modern book burnings. It is my honour to defend freedom of speech and religion”.

The hearing

Räsänen arrived at the District Court some minutes before 9:30, where she was received by her supporters.

At the beginning of the hearing, the prosecutor demanded that Räsänen remove everything she said about the Biblical teaching on homosexuality from the public space. He read the charges against Päivi Räsänen and Juhana Pohjola. The lastest is from the Lutheran bishop with whom Räsänen wrote a booklet in 2004 under the title: God created them male and female.

The prosecutor enumerated the charges against the parliament member and accused her of hate speech against members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to ADF International lawyer Paul Coleman, who was present in the courtroom at the hearing:

“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 so patronising to dare to speak on behalf of an entire group of people?”

After a short pause, Räsänen’s lawyer, Matti Sankamo started responding to the prosecution. He stated that the prosecutor was wrong.

“Räsänen does hold the following beliefs: All humans are equal; God has created both homosexuals and heterosexuals; all people have sinned against God.”

During the lunch break, Päivi Räsänen answered questions from some of the journalists. She said: “God loves the sinner but not sin. This is fundamental in Christianity”.

Päivi Räsänen answers the questions of journalists. Source: Santeri Marjokorpi/Twitter

After the break, the lawyer went on to say that it is not unlawful to criticise the Pride movement; moreover, the movement does not represent everyone belonging to a sexual minority.

The court treated the question of a pamphlet of the year 2004 and radio broadcasts, called “What did Jesus think about homosexuals?”, which involved Räsänen in  December of 2019. While on record, the accused said that God created humans as male and female and intended the marriage between the two genders. Therefore, sex outside marriage is a sin.

At around quarter to five, the prosecutor asked Räsänen: “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?”

She answered: “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.”

At 5:03 PM, the court was adjourned. The hearing will be continued on the 14th of February.

Päivi Räsänen during the break of the hearing on the 24th of January. Source: Santeri Marjokorpi/Twitter

International support

On the day of the hearing, many Christian politicians and organisations assured Räsänen of their support. Tristan Azbej, State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and the Hungary Helps Program shared on his Facebook page the following words:

“I show solidarity with Päivi Räsänen, former Finnish Minister of the Interior, who is in these moments before the Helsinki District Court for advocating biblical Christian teaching!”

He also ruled that it was unacceptable that the confession of biblical teaching is a crime. According to him, “freedom of religion and conscience is a fundamental human right that applies to Christian people as well”.

The article is based on the live report of CNE.

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