Päivi Räsänen, a member of Finland’s Parliament and a former Finnish minister of the interior, is facing three charges of hate speech for stating her views on homosexuality, which she explained in part by quoting from the book of Romans.
Räsänen, who is also a medical doctor and a grandmother, is accused of “hate speech” for disagreeing with the state’s view of LGBT issues.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Officials began investigating her after a 2019 tweet that criticized her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT “pride” event. The tweet cited Romans 1:24-27, which speaks of the unnatural nature of homosexuality. “How does the church’s doctrine, the Bible, fit together with the cause where shame and sin are raised as a topic of pride?” Räsänen wrote.
After her tweet, “The Prosecutor General then initiated a second, third, and fourth investigation,” according to ADF. “These concerned a pamphlet that Räsänen wrote more than 16 years ago outlining the official teaching of her own church on human sexuality, a television interview, and a radio interview. Despite the police previously concluding that no crime had been committed, the Prosecutor General re-opened the file.”
One of the investigations centers on a 2018 TV interview with the politician in which she voiced her views on LGBT issues, while a second investigation focuses on her statement saying, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?” The final investigation pertains to a 2004 pamphlet she authored which states her church’s views on LGBT issues.
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International and author of “Censored: How European Hate Speech Laws are Threatening Freedom of Speech,” said:
“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.”
Räsänen has done nothing wrong, only stated the biblical view of sexuality. Yet thanks to Finland’s hate speech laws, she faces up to six years in prison because the Bible is in opposition to the government’s approved orthodoxy.
While Americans might find such a gross injustice hard to fathom, it is closer to home than most realize. As was discussed in the latest issue of the Standing for Freedom Center’s quarterly Journal, a piece of legislation known as the “Equality Act” could actually spell the end of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in America.
The Equality Act, like the Virginia Values Act, is a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) law that expands the definition of “public accommodations” to essentially make everything public. This means that churches, religious schools, private businesses, and other faith-based organizations would no longer be allowed to make hiring decisions or refuse to engage in certain activities based on the organization’s beliefs and values. As already seen in the real-world application of the Virginia Values Act, business owners such as photographers will be unable to invoke their religious convictions to refuse to render their services for a homosexual wedding.
In effect, these SOGI laws would make it a criminal act of discrimination for a church, business, school, or faith-based organization to act on its religious convictions and force it to adopt the state’s approved view of LGBT issues.
It isn’t just the Equality Act that should have Americans worried, however. Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden’s new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has a track record of opposing free speech by Christians. For example, he prosecuted David Daleiden after the investigative journalist exposed Planned Parenthood’s alleged participation in selling fetal remains. Becerra also attempted to force pro-life pregnancy centers to put pro-abortion statements on billboards.
In addition, Biden selected anti-free speech crusader Richard Stengel as his transition team leader for the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Stengel is on the record criticizing the principle of free speech, declaring, “All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting ‘thought that we hate,’ but not speech that incites hate.”
He added that allowing “hateful speech” seemed like a “design flaw” in the First Amendment and he has advocated for European-style hate speech laws to restrict free speech, just like those in Finland.
What’s happening to Päivi Räsänen is inexcusable and must be fought to the bitter end. What is happening to her might seem like an ocean away, but the same common enemy of free speech is coming ashore in America. If we don’t push it back, Räsänen’s battle could soon be our battle too.