An appeal court in Finland has dismissed all charges of alleged “hate speech” against Dr Päivi Räsänen after she shared the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality.
In a unanimous decision, judges in Helsinki could find “no reason” to overturn an earlier ruling which had upheld Dr Räsänen’s right to free speech.
Legal proceedings began in 2019, when Finland’s Prosecutor General claimed Räsänen’s statements upholding biblical sexual ethics were derogatory, discriminatory, and may have violated the dignity of homosexual people.
Welcoming the verdict, Dr Räsänen said: “I am deeply relieved. The court has fully endorsed and upheld the decision of the district court, which recognised everyone’s right to free speech.
“It isn’t a crime to tweet a Bible verse or to engage in public discourse with a Christian perspective.
“The attempts made to prosecute me for expressing my beliefs have resulted in an immensely trying four years, but my hope is that the result will stand as a key precedent to protect the human right to free speech.”
At a press conference following the acquittal, she said that she had never thought of giving up. “Why should I? It was about the Word of God. And my whole family supported me. But there have been difficult moments.”
It isn’t a crime to tweet a Bible verse or to engage in public discourse with a Christian perspective.
Paul Coleman, of religious freedom organisation ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen’s case, bore testimony to her “brave commitment to standing firm”.
He also said: “We are relieved to see courts enforce the rule of law when state authorities overstep by seeking to penalise and censor statements that they dislike.”
But he warned that ‘hate speech’ laws risk shutting down “important public debates” and pose “a grave threat to our democracies”.
State Prosecutor Anu Mantila has already indicated her readiness to appeal to the Supreme Court.