In Global Freedom of Speech Win, Court Clears Finnish Official of ‘Hate Speech’ for Sharing Faith-Based Views on Marriage, Sexuality

In a globally watched case United States senators had worried would result in a “secular blasphemy law,” a Finnish court has ruled it should not be in the business of interpreting “biblical concepts.”

The Helsinki District Court dismissed charges against Finnish Parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola, ordering the prosecution to pay more than 60,000 euros in legal costs, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) announced in a press release.

Räsänen, a high profile female parliamentarian, had been charged with “hate speech” over her faith-based views on marriage and sexuality, including a 2019 tweet that called homosexuality a “sin.”

The bishop had published Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet that shared her views on marriage and sexual ethics, the ADF press release said, and Pohjola had also faced charges for distributing that pamphlet 17 years ago.

Following news of her victory, Räsänen said in a statement that she felt as if a “weight had been lifted” off her shoulders.

“I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favour,” she said in a statement provided by ADF. “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.”

During the trial, prosecution cross-examined both Räsänen and Pohjola on their Christian theology.

“The prosecutor began the first day of the trial by arguing that the case was not about beliefs or the Bible,” ADF said in a press release. “She then proceeded to quote Old Testament Bible verses and criticize the phrase ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ In their closing statement, the prosecution alleged that the use of the word ‘sin’ can be ‘harmful’ and called for heavy fines in the event of a guilty verdict.”

Supported by ADF, Räsänen’s defense had argued that she was expressing Christian teaching and that though some might disagree with her, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.”

If Räsänen were found guilty, this would significantly damage free speech in Finland, her defense argued.

“We welcome the Helsinki District Court’s ruling,” said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International. “This is an important decision, which upholds the fundamental right to freedom of speech in Finland. In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship.”

“This is the foundation of every free and democratic society,” he added. “Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies.”

The trial had drawn thousands to protest in front of the courthouse, ADF said in a press release.

Multiple Republican senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri, had expressed their support for Räsänen’s right to express her faith.

In a January letter to Rashad Hussain, U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom, the senators worried that “the use of Finnish hate speech law is tantamount to a secular blasphemy law.”

“It could open the door for prosecution of other devout Christians, Muslims, Jews and adherents of other faiths for publicly stating their religious beliefs,” read the letter.

Republican Texas Rep. Chip Roy celebrated news of Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s victory in a statement Wednesday, calling the decision, “a victory for the God-given rights of free speech and religious expression both in Finland and across the globe.”

“But, the fact that there was even a prosecution is unacceptable and a reminder that we must remain vigilant in defense of our faith, our values, and the very unalienable rights that form the foundation of Western Civilization,” he added.

Reporting by The Daily Wire.