A member of the Finnish Parliament and former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen, now faces police four investigations.
Mrs Räsänen has served as an MP 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.
In June 2019, she directed a tweet at the leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, questioning its official sponsorship of the LGBT event “Pride 2019”, accompanied by an image of Romans 1:24-27 from the New Testament that describes same-sex relationships as ‘shameful’.
She wrote: “How can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?”
Räsänen attended two police interviews about the tweet as well as a pamphlet she wrote 16 years ago on human sexuality for a Christian foundation.
She now faces further questioning regarding interviews she gave to a television program and a radio station and is being supported by Christian religious freedom charity Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
The police had already decided to drop the investigation into Mrs Räsänen’s pamphlet and concluded that there were no grounds to proceed with a prosecution. However, the Prosecutor General reopened the criminal investigation.
On 2nd March, the police interviewed Mrs Räsänen a second time about the tweet and on 5th March, Räsänen was informed that the Prosecutor General had launched two more investigations against her.
In 2018 the politician was on a show called ‘Maria Veitola, Overnight visit’, in which the presenter came to Räsänen’s home and stayed overnight. They discussed religious matters, including Räsänen’s personal beliefs. One of the investigations includes this programme.
The fourth investigation focuses on a radio interview from 20th December 2019, in which Räsänen commented on the show’s topic of discussion, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”
Responding to the police investigation, she said: “I never thought I would face a criminal investigation for sharing my deeply held beliefs. It came as a total surprise. As a Christian and a democratically elected Member of Parliament, I have often heard things with which I disagree – sometimes very strongly. At times, I have felt insulted. I believe the best response to this is more debate, not censorship.
“These police investigations raise concerns about limiting the freedoms that have been guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human right treaties. A major threat for freedom of religion and free speech is that we don’t make use of these rights. I hope these criminal investigations won’t lead to self-censorship among Christians. I am going to use my rights regardless of the police investigation. I encourage others to do the same.”
Lorcan Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International and part of the team supporting her case, said: “The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that the right to freedom of expression does not protect merely popular ideas, but also those that challenge the status quo. You can support Mrs. Räsänen’s freedom of speech whether you agree with her positions or not. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to those with whom we disagree. Tolerance is a two-way street. Driving people with different beliefs out of the public square is not only a violation of the rights protected in international and European law, but leaves our societies all the poorer for it.”