A Finnish member of parliament remains resolute and confident in her faith as she awaits the final verdict in a “frightening” and “alarming” case centered on free speech and religious freedom that has gained global attention.
Päivi Räsänen, whose criminal trial began Jan. 24 and ended Feb. 14, was charged with violating the dignity and equality of the LGBTQ population by engaging in purported hate speech. She told Faithwire Thursday her plight began June 17, 2019, when she tweeted the text of Romans 1:24-27, which condemns homosexuality as sinful.
At the time, Räsänen, who previously served as Finland’s minister of the interior, was alarmed over a decision by her denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, to support an LGBTQ Pride event, so she responded by sharing Scripture on her Twitter account.
“This was quite shocking to me, and I was thinking, ‘What should I do now?’” she said of the church’s support for the event. “In fact, I was praying, ‘Is it now my time to resign the church as some of my friends have done?’”
But Räsänen said she got a “very clear vision” that it wasn’t time to leave the denomination and that she was being called to “try to speak loud and try to wake up those who are sleeping.”
So, Räsänen shared her biblical citation and critique — and debate immediately followed. Soon, LGBTQ advocates spoke out and, before long, she said the police began investigating her comments.
Watch Räsänen tell her story:
It wasn’t long before other comments she made about biblical marriage were at the forefront of the discontentedness, including a 2004 pamphlet she wrote, “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity.”
“The police investigated these cases and interrogated me several times over [many] hours,” she said, noting that authorities asked some truly “odd” questions.
But Räsänen, undeterred, shared her faith and stuck by the biblical ideals that initially landed her in authorities’ crosshairs.
“I was sitting there with my Bible on the table, and the police asked, ‘What does the word ‘sin’ mean? What does the Apostle Paul mean in the letter of the Romans? And what is the whole message of the letter of the Romans?’” she recalled. “Those kind of questions about my belief and my conviction. So, I felt like [I was] sitting in Soviet time or in Belarus or Korea, not in Finland.”
That questioning was just the beginning, as Finland’s Office of the Prosecutor General believes Räsänen’s comments and statements weren’t merely unpalatable, but were likely to spark hatred and intolerance.
The prosecutor contended these statements “transcend freedom of speech and religion,” because they targeted the “equality and dignity of homosexuals.”
Räsänen was brought up on criminal charges and went on trial, shocking onlookers worldwide, especially those who hold a biblical view of marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman.
“If this happens in a democracy as Finland, it can happen anywhere,” she told Faithwire.
One of the most troubling elements of the case is that Finland has a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and religion, and Räsänen noted she merely said what Christians have long taught.
“[The case] has been a shock to many, many thousands of Christians that this happens in Finland,” she said. “This is a very historical case in Finland. Never before has happened something like this, because I have not spoken anything about hate threat against any minority. I have spoken those things that represent a very classical interpretation of the Bible and churches.”
Räsänen could face fines and up to two years in prison if convicted of these supposed crimes, and her pamphlet could be banned — something she argued would have a chilling effect on biblical writings, statements, and sermons.
But despite the uncertainty, she said she is confident in her faith.
“This is very frightening, the situation for Finland, but at the same time, I feel that this is my calling now to stand behind these statements and to fight for the freedom of speech and religion,” she said. “And I believe that God has something in His mind for Finland.”