A Christian politician in Finland could face up to six years in prison for sharing the Bible’s position on sexual ethics.
Former Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen has been charged with three ‘hate crimes’, including sharing a Bible verse in 2019, comments made on TV in 2018 and a 2004 pamphlet she wrote supporting traditional marriage.
The grandmother of six has vowed to fight the charges – each of which carries a two-year sentence – to protect freedom of speech for other Christians in Finland.
In 2019, Räsänen shared a picture of her Bible open at Romans 1:24-27 in response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland’s decision to sponsor a local LGBT pride event.
She wrote: “How can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?”
She was placed under investigation for the comments that year, but a formal prosecution was not made until last month.
In a statement, Finland’s Prosecutor General claimed that Räsänen’s actions were derogatory and discriminatory, and also suggested her comments had violated the dignity of gay people.
Responding to the charges, Räsänen said her statements “were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality”.
I will defend my right to confess my faith
She said: “I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.”
The former Government Minister added: “I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.”
‘Culture of fear’
Paul Coleman, of religious freedom organisation ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen’s case, expressed his concerns with the charges, warning that they create “a culture of fear and censorship”.
The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.
He added: “If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely.”
In 2011, Christian housing manager Adrian Smith was demoted and had his salary cut by 40 per cent for posting on Facebook that same-sex weddings in UK churches would be “an equality too far”.
He was supported by The Christian Institute, and successfully sued his employers over a breach of contract when the High Court ruled in his favour.