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LIVE FROM COURT: Prosecutors argue that Finnish politician's interpretation and publication of Bible verses is "criminal"

LIVE FROM COURT: Prosecutors argue that Finnish politician's interpretation and publication of Bible verses is "criminal"

  • Appeal trial in Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen’s free speech case over Bible-tweet underway 
  • Prosecution argue that Räsänen’s interpretation of the Bible verses is “criminal”
  • Tomorrow: Räsänen available for questions after trial concludes at online press conference hosted by ADF International on 1st Sep at 17:00 CEST (11:00 EDT) 

HELSINKI (31 August 2023)The criminal trial of Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola is underway before the Helsinki Court of Appeal. As the defendants arrived, supporters gathered outside of the courthouse for the politician and the bishop. Both stand accused of “hate speech” for publicly expressing their faith-based beliefs. 

The parliamentarian of over twenty-five years, medical doctor, and grandmother, Päivi Räsänen, said upon arrival at the court: “Everyone should be able to share their beliefs without fearing censorship by state-authorities. I know that the prosecution is trying to make an example of me to scare others into silence. Yet, you do not have to align with my views to agree that everyone should be able to speak freely. With God’s help I will remain steadfast and continue defending everyone’s human right to free speech.”  

The prosecution’s case for censorship 

The day’s proceedings started off with arguments brought forward by the prosecution. Regarding the booklet discussing Christian anthropology and homosexuality, which Räsänen wrote almost 20 years ago, the prosecution said: “The point isn’t whether it is true or not but that it is insulting.” The prosecutor also stated, that “the authors of the Bible are not indicted” today, but that Räsänen’s use of the word “sin” is “degrading” and violates “sexual rights”.  

The prosecution also argued: “We can limit freedom of expression in the outward expression of religion.” And pointing to the Bible-Tweet; the prosecutor summarized: “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal”. 

Last year, the prosecution appealed the Helsinki District Court’s unanimous March 2022 ruling clearing Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola of “hate speech” charges. The District Court ruled that it’s not the court’s job “to interpret biblical concepts.” Yet the prosecution argues in its appeal the court “misinterpreted” Räsänen’s tweet and reached the wrong conclusion. 

Counting on the court  

Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola were accompanied by Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen’s legal defense.  

In a democratic society, everyone should be free to share their beliefs without fear of state prosecution. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and endangers democracy. Cases like Päivi’s create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming increasingly common worldwide. We hope the Helsinki Court of Appeal will uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech and clear Päivi Räsänen of these baseless charges,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, serving on Räsänen’s legal team, and author of ‘Censored: How European Hate Speech Laws are Threatening Freedom of Speech’.   

Prosecuted for tweeting Bible verses 

The longstanding parliamentarian and former Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen is being accused of engaging in “hate speech” for publicly voicing her deeply held beliefs on marriage and sexual ethics. Finland’s former Prosecutor General brought three criminal charges against Räsänen over the contents of a booklet Räsänen wrote on these topics in 2004, for engaging in a debate on a 2019 radio show, and for a tweet containing a picture of Bible verses that Räsänen had directed at her church leadership. Bishop Juhana Pohjola faces trial alongside her for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet for his congregation almost 20 years ago. The charge falls under the section of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” of the Finnish criminal code. 

Police investigations commenced after Räsänen, a member of the Finnish Lutheran church, questioned her church leadership’s sponsorship of ‘Pride 2019,’ in a tweet accompanied by an image of Bible verses. For this, she was subjected to a total of 13 hours of police interrogations over several months, including being frequently asked by police to explain her understanding of the Bible.  

Räsänen has served as a member of the Finnish parliament since 1995. From 2004-2015 she was chair of the Christian Democrats, and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior. During this time, she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland. She was most recently reelected to parliament in April 2023. 

Press conference registration 

ADF International will host a press conference after the appeal trial on 1st September at 17:00 CEST. Dr. Päivi Räsänen, MP, Bishop Juhana Pohjola, Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, and Finnish criminal defense lawyer, Matti Sankamo, will be available for questions after a brief statement by Räsänen. Please register here to access the Teams link:  

To support Päivi Räsänen’s case, visit     

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