- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2022

Finnish lawmaker Päivi Räsänen said Monday she remains optimistic despite a prosecutor’s decision to appeal her acquittal on “hate speech” charges for comments the Christian evangelical has shared on homosexuality and the Bible.

The former interior minister is in Washington this week and is expected to address a plenary session of the 2022 International Religious Freedom Summit on Wednesday.

“This has already taken three years of my life,” Ms. Räsänen told The Washington Times. “And it will take at least one year, I suppose, perhaps many more years,” she added. “I feel that it has been a privilege to defend the biblical values, [and] to have discussions about these biblical values. So I think that this is in God’s hands.”

Ms. Räsänen remains under threat from state prosecutor Raija Toiviainen for tweeting Bible verses condemning homosexuality, despite winning a round at the Helsinki District Court on March 30.

A three-judge panel acquitted Ms. Räsänen of hate speech for her statements on Twitter, talk radio and in a 2004 booklet defending the traditional Christian view of marriage and sexuality. 

The unanimous decision also awarded the member of parliament 60,000 Euros, or approximately $67,000, for legal fees.

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However, she said there is an upside to the continuance of her case. She said a victory at either the appeals court level or in Finland’s Supreme Court would establish “a precedent” for free speech in the Nordic nation.

“We have the possibility to gain even a bigger, bigger victory … a guideline for future cases,” Ms. Räsänen said.

The evangelical Christian suggested Ms. Toiviainen’s office is engaging in selective prosecution when it comes to faith-based speech related to homosexuality. She said the state declined to prosecute a Muslim cleric in Finland who said on state television that “openly homosexual people” should be “stoned.”

While “some citizens made criminal complaints” against the cleric, the state prosecutor “didn’t prosecute him because he is a [religious] minority.”

Ms. Räsänen said that being charged with “agitation against a minority” for asserting a Chrisitian viewpoint on homosexuality means she is accused of “crimes against humanity,” part of the state prosecutor’s brief.

“These crimes are serious crimes and that’s why it is the general prosecutor who prosecuted me because it is in Finnish law,” she said. “They are serious crimes, and that’s why it is not the [local] prosecutor who is in charge of this.”

The Washington Times has contacted Ms. Toiviainen’s office requesting comment.

Ms. Räsänen said that at the IRF Summit, she will “tell my story and tell what is going on in Finland.”

She added, “Then, I will encourage people to use their freedoms. I’m happy that in the United States you have these freedoms, and I think that now it is time to be open about your views and use these freedoms of speech. If you do not use it in these issues, then the space will become narrower as we have seen in Finland. The more you are silent, the more your freedom of speech is limited.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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