Is Citing the Bible a Crime? Finnish Ex-Minister Faces Two Years for 'Incitement' Against Gays

CC0 / AnnaPannaAnna / Christian cross
Christian cross - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.01.2022
The case of Christian Democrat Päivi Räsänen marks the first time in Finland that a court will decide on whether quoting the Bible can be considered a crime.
Following a protracted investigation that took nearly two years, the trial of former Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen on three charges of incitement against a minority group, in this case homosexuals, has begun in Helsinki District Court.
The politician, a pious Christian, will defend herself over “hateful” social media posts in which she happened to quote Romans 1:24-27 to criticise the participation of the Finnish Lutheran Church in the Pride festival. The two other charges involve a booklet about the Bible and sexuality titled “As Man and Woman He Created Them” from back in 2004, as well as her statements in a radio talk show where she spoke on the topic “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”
Announcing formal charges against the former Christian Democrats leader, the Finnish Prosecutor General said her statements were “derogatory and discriminatory against homosexuals” and exceeded “the boundaries of free speech and religion”. Presiding over the case, State Prosecutor Ari Mantila emphasised that this is “neither the inquisition, nor a theological dispute” and that the hateful message becomes obvious when gays are substituted with other minorities such as “people of colour or Finland Swedes”.
However, during a police interview ahead of the trial, Räsänen stuck to her guns and said that she had merely wanted to stir debate with her opinion, and not to offend gay people, arguing that it was a matter of freedom of speech and religion.
“My main concern was that the investigation could lead to Christians shying away from quoting the Bible and presenting the teachings of the Bible, including the practising of homosexuality, about which there are clear teachings in the Bible. And also, that Christians would start practising self-censorship”, Räsänen said as quoted by national broadcaster Yle.
Räsänen insisted that she supports the dignity and human rights of homosexuals, yet added that her concerns and criticisms were directed specifically at the Church and its leadership, which she felt had forgotten the “clear teachings” of the Bible. According to Räsänen, the proceedings of the Finnish Lutheran Church, which of late has become an avid Pride supporter, are at odds with the Bible, as the Pride movement “celebrates things that are declared shameful and sinful in the Bible”. She admitted that she even though of quitting, like many of her compatriots, as the church is currently leaking members, but decided to stay and influence fellow worshippers.
A conviction could potentially lead to a fine or in the worst case up to two years of prison, as well as a ban on the content deemed as hateful.
Church, Finland - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.10.2021
Hundreds Leave Church of Finland After Bishop's Urge to Vaxx
A trained physician, Räsänen became an MP in 1995. She led the Finnish Christian Democrats from 2004 to 2015 and served as interior minister between 2011 and 2015. Räsänen is firm pro-lifer with five children. In 2013, she made headlines as she contrasted abortion law to animal protection law, saying that the latter does a better job at protecting animals than the former does to humans.
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