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When a tweet can land you in jail: Criminal charges brought against Finnish MP

  • Finnish Prosecutor General brings three criminal charges against former Minister of the Interior
  • MP prosecuted for tweeting a Bible verse

HELSINKI / VIENNA (April 30) – Imprisonment for posting a Bible tweet is now a very real possibility in Finland. The Finnish Prosecutor General has brought three criminal charges against Finnish Member of Parliament, Päivi Räsänen. The former Minister of the Interior now faces two years of imprisonment. The medical doctor, mother of five, and grandmother of six is ​​accused of having engaged in “hate speech” for publicly voicing her opinion on marriage and human sexuality in a 2004 pamphlet, for comments made on a 2019 radio show, and a tweet directed at her church leadership. 

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“I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment. I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone. My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, ”said Päivi Räsänen. “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. I hold on to the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored. I will not back down from my views. I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets. “

Criminally charged for voicing deeply held beliefs 

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 defense and the right for everyone to freely share their beliefs.

“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. It is sobering that such cases are becoming all too common throughout Europe. If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged 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: How European Hate Speech Laws are Threatening Freedom of Speech.

Räsänen has served as a Finnish Member of Parliament since 1995, was chair of the Christian Democrats from 2004-2015, and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior, during which she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland.

People can send a message of encouragement to Päivi Räsänen  here .

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