A religious freedom case in Finland may place a chilling effect on free speech around the world and underscores the need to protect the freedom of speech and religion, those involved in the legal battle said.
Finnish Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola were acquitted of all charges in their religious freedom casein Wednesday. Räsänen faced three charges of ethnic agitation for a 2004 pamphlet, for taking part in a discussion on a radio show in 2019, and most recently, for tweeting a picture of the Bible.
In a 2019 tweet, Räsänen questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBTQ Pride event and linked to an Instagram post with a picture of Romans 1:24-27.
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Pohjola faced one count of ethnic agitation for hosting a pamphlet written by Räsänen on his church’s website.
Lorcan Price of Alliance Defending Freedom International, who was assisting with the case, called it a “clear warning.”
“[The case acts] as a clear warning, I think, that any attempts to erode freedom of expression and to criminalize speech lead to situations where you find clearly oppressive measures be taken against individuals for expressing their religious beliefs in the public square,” Price told Fox News Digital.
MP of the Finland’s Christian Democrats Paivi Rasanen (R) holds a bible as she arrives with her husband Niilo Rasanen to attend a court session at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.
Räsänen added that the trial underscored the importance of using religion” target=”_blank”>religious freedoms<
“These charges should have never been brought to trial, but the fact that they were, and even with the acquittal today and the not guilty verdict, it will still give people pause for thought to consider whether or not they themselves could put themselves through the same ordeal of a police investigation and a court process for trial,” Price added.
Price also warned that because of liberal and ideologically-driven prosecutors, religious freedom cases like Räsänen’s could become more common.
MP of the Finland’s Christian Democrats Paivi Rasanen holds a bible as she speaks to media ahead of a court session at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.
( (Photo by ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images))
“We believe that this prosecution was driven by an ideological bias on the part of the prosecutor general,” he said.
“We’re going to see more of this, and so long as prosecutors are ideologically motivated, and whether authorities with a similar outlook believe that … if someone offends you, it’s a criminal act, then we’re going to see more of these prosecutions,” he added.
Räsänen said she is relieved and happy about the verdict, calling it an “important decision” for the freedom of speech and religion, but noted that the prosecution would likely appeal the case.
MP of the Finland’s Christian Democrats Paivi Rasanen arrives to attend a court session at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.
((Photo by ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images))
Price said the Helsinki District Court’s verdict left a “very narrow” path for an appeal, but that was unlikely to stop the prosecutor, who is under pressure from the political left.
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Romans 1:24-27, which Räsänen tweeted, reads: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lust. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (New International Version)