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Court dismisses “hate speech” charges against Finnish MP

Court dismisses “hate speech” charges against Finnish MP



Päivi Räsänen

District Court of Helsinki

Advocacy Team:
Paul Coleman

Topic | Freedom of Speech

Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola were unanimously acquitted of all “hate speech” charges on 30 March. The Helsinki District Court concluded that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts”. However, the Finnish state prosecutor has publicly indicated her intent to push criminal proceedings against the MP and bishop into their fourth year by appealing the victory.

“I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favour. I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted. Although I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal,” said Päivi Räsänen after her victory.

The Finnish Prosecutor General brought three criminal charges against Päivi Räsänen at the end of April 2021. The medical doctor, mother of five, and grandmother of ten was accused of having engaged in “hate speech” for publicly voicing her opinion on marriage and human sexuality in a 2004 pamphlet, for comments made during a 2019 radio debate, and a tweet she directed at her church leadership. Bishop Pohjola, the Chairman of the International Lutheran Council, was charged for having published the pamphlet that Räsänen authored.

Päivi Räsänen

District Court of Helsinki

Advocacy Team:
Paul Coleman

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“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 more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech grows.”

Case Summary

Police investigations against Räsänen started in June 2019. As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran church, she addressed the leadership of her church and questioned its official sponsorship of the LGBT event ‘Pride 2019’, accompanied by an image of a Bible text. Räsänen has already attended several lengthy police interviews about her views and had to wait over a year for the General Prosecutor to decide whether to continue with the prosecution. That decision was made in April 2021 and ADF International will continue supporting Räsänen’s defence and the right for everyone to freely share their beliefs.

Päivi Räsänen has served as a member of the Finnish Parliament since 1995, and was Minister of the Interior from 2011-2015. She is a medical doctor, mother of five children, and has ten grandchildren.

“Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy. The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship. If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged and tried for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely, ”said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International and author of “Censored“.

Ruling Announced: Victory!
The Helsinki District Court upholds the right to free speech by unanimously dismissing all charges against Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola.
Closing Arguments
Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola appear in court in the last day of their free speech trial on 14 February 2022.
Trial Begins
Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola face trial on 24 January 2022 for sharing their deeply held beliefs.
Criminally Charged
The Finnish Prosecutor General brings three criminal charges against Päivi Räsänen on 29 April 2021.
Räsänen faces 3rd Interrogation
“I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to free speech.”
Another Police Interrogation
On 2 March 2020, the police interrogated Päivi Räsänen a second time following the first interrogation in Nov. about the tweet.
Räsänen Faces Further Investigation
On 4 Nov. 2019, the Prosecutor General announces that Räsänen will face investigation into a pamphlet she wrote for her church in 2004 on human sexuality.
In June 2019, the board of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland announces its official partnership with the LGBT event “Pride 2019”. Päivi Räsänen directs a tweet at her church leadership questioning this decision.
30 March 2022
14 February 2022
24 January 2022
29 April 2021
August 2020
March 2020
November 2019
June 2019

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