In the digital age, where everyone has a voice on platforms such as X, formerly known as Twitter, a single tweet can change lives. Such is the case for Finland’s Päivi Räsänen, a medical doctor, active parliamentarian, and grandmother, who never thought she would be taken to court for sharing her deeply-held beliefs.
In June 2019, Räsänen posted a tweet directed at her church, openly questioning its decision to sponsor a local pride parade. Attached to the tweet was a scripture passage that only intensified the scrutiny she faced. This act has now had her embroiled in an intense legal battle with the Finnish government.
Thanks for pointing this out, Jordan.
⁰State censorship is increasing. And it's a global trend.
⁰Over in Europe, did you see the case of the Finnish politician on criminal trial for tweeting a criticism of her church's sponsorship of the pride parade?https://t.co/P4p6VR0TAV
— ADF International (@ADFIntl) August 11, 2023
It’s hard to imagine that a member of Finland’s Parliament, and a longtime public servant, would be subjected to 13 grueling hours of police interrogation simply for sharing a biblical perspective. Not only was she charged for the tweet, but authorities also delved into her past, slapping her with three counts of “agitation against a minority group” due to a 2004 church pamphlet she authored and a 2019 radio appearance.
Joining her in this unexpected legal limbo is Bishop Juhana Pohjola of Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, who was also charged with publishing the same pamphlet that holds a Biblical-based view of marriage and intimate human relationships. The repercussions could include thousands in fines and a potential two-year prison stint.
To many, the move by Finland’s authorities might seem excessive. After all, the Helsinki District Court unanimously acquitted Räsänen last year, asserting that the court is not in the business of interpreting biblical concepts. Yet, Finnish law permits a sort of legal double jeopardy, letting prosecutors appeal based on sheer dissatisfaction. Come August 31, both Räsänen and the bishop will be hailed back into the courtroom again.
This case isn’t just a local matter but has garnered international attention and concern. As a nation often termed the “happiest” on Earth and a stronghold of European democracy, Finland’s actions have many wondering if it’s happening there, where next?
On August 8, 16 U.S. Congress members penned a letter to both the U.S. ambassador–at–large for international religious freedom and the U.S. ambassador to Finland. The message was clear: the prosecutor’s attempt to weaponize Finland’s legal system against individuals like Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola threatens them and the millions of Finnish Christians wishing to express their faith.
The letter from the legislators highlighted, “No American, no Finn, and no human should face legal harassment for simply living out their religious beliefs.”
Yet, this is where we are in 2023. A grandmother and a bishop stand accused due to ‘hate speech’ laws — laws that, by many accounts, can easily be manipulated against virtually any speech, any belief. These ambiguously worded rules don’t necessarily combat hate but perpetuate fear and censorship.
If the Finnish prosecutor’s logic becomes the global norm, we’re staring down a future where even basic Christian theology might become unspeakable. It begs the question: in our quest for inclusivity and understanding, have we lost the essence of freedom and democracy?