In an appeals court Thursday, Helsinki’s top prosecutor said publicly quoting the Bible and publishing a booklet about Christian sexual ethics violates Finland’s “hate speech” law. The appeal escalates this U.S. ally’s prosecution of dissidents from leftist politics, a marker of repressive regimes.
The prosecutor has charged Member of Parliament Paivi Rasanen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola for writing and publishing, respectively, a booklet supporting natural marriage.
“This [case] is a God-given wake up call for Christians and others worried about the direction our society is going,” Pohjola said in a post-court press conference Friday morning U.S. time. He noted convicting a religious leader for publishing theological documents would in effect criminalize Christianity in Finland and encourage similar oppression worldwide.
Rasanen is also criminally charged with posting a Bible verse to X (formerly Twitter) and stating Christian theology in a radio interview. The prosecutor wants all recordings of the radio interview taken down and the booklet to be unavailable online, and fines levied against both Christians.
“The content of my writings and my speeches represents the classical Christian view of marriage and sexuality, the same as the Churches have generally taught for two millennia,” Rasanen said in a statement. “I do not condone insulting, threatening or slandering anyone, and my statements have not included content of such a nature. I consider this matter to be a theological discussion that should not be in a courtroom.”
In court Thursday, prosecutor Anu Mantila disagreed, claiming, “Condemning homosexual acts condemns homosexuals as human beings,” according to English-language local reporting. Using the Bible’s word “sin” to describe any non-marital sexual acts violates “sexual rights” and is “insulting” and “degrading,” Mantila argued, according to an Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADFI) account from the courtroom.
Friday morning, Mantila argued hate speech laws criminalize “insults” and parts of the Bible: “There is material in the Bible that contradicts principles in our society. This is why the interpretation of the law against discrimination must be applied effectively.”
Orthodox Christianity has proclaimed for 2,000 years that marriage is defined by a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and all sexual activity outside such a union harms both the participants and society. Mantila argues this core Christian theology criminally insults homosexuals. Rasanen, Pohjola, and their lawyers said that’s not true.
“The core of the whole process is this: condemning sinful deeds does not mean questioning the person’s worth and dignity,” Pohjola said in court Friday. “These are completely different things. The prosecutor is propagating an understanding that is fully against the Christian understanding of human being, God, and their relation. Condemning sin is not questioning the person’s dignity.”
Hate Speech Laws Criminalize Christianity
In interviews, Rasanen and Pohjola emphasized Christianity has always taught that every human is guilty of transgressing against God’s commands and that God unleashed His just punishment for every one of those sins upon His Son, Jesus Christ. This means every person is beloved and can be forgiven by God no matter what that person has ever done wrong.
“The prosecutor sees traditional Christianity as containing hatred and discrimination,” Pohjola told a local reporter after Thursday’s court session. “No value is given to the Biblical revelation that all people have intrinsic value as God’s creation.”
Due to Communist influence, much of the West has enacted speech restrictions similar to Finland’s. That includes dozens of U.S. states and cities. All it would take is courts to interpret hate speech laws the way these Finnish prosecutors are arguing to criminalize Christianity across the West.
“Politicians sell us hate speech laws by claiming they will target neo Nazi types and make us all safer,” noted Paul Coleman, an ADFI lawyer supporting the case. “Yet in no time at all they are turned against a Christian grandmother tweeting a picture of some bible verses.”
Cases like these are increasing globally. In Mexico this month, a former politician lost an appeal of his conviction for “gender-based political violence” for describing a transgender man as “a man who self-ascribes as a woman.” Earlier this year, U.K. banks closed down top politicians’ accounts over their non-leftist views.
A Canadian pastor and his family recently exiled themselves to Kenya after the government began seizing the bank accounts of lockdown opponents. Minnesota is moving to place teacher licensing requirements that effectively ban Christians from working in public schools.
Searching for Hate Crimes
Finnish and European media call Rasanen’s human rights case “the Bible trial.” A lower court unanimously cleared Rasanen and Pohjola in March 2022. The two Christians have been in court now for more than four years.
In 2019, during a debate about whether Finland’s state church should sponsor anti-heterosexual parades, Rasanen tweeted a picture of a Bible verse condemning homosexual acts. Due to the tweet, the Helsinki prosecutor began investigating Rasanen’s nearly 30 years of public statements.
Rasanen didn’t know she was being investigated until that fact was published in the newspaper. At first she didn’t believe it, so she called the police and they then confirmed it to her, she said in a press conference Friday.
That investigation unearthed a 2004 booklet, “Male and Female He Created Them.” Rasanen wrote and Pohjola published it seven years before Finland added “hate speech” provisions to its “war crimes” code. Mantila charged them as criminals for writing and publishing the book. During this investigation, police interrogated Rasanen about Christian theology and its political implications three times for a total of more than 13 hours.
“If writings based on biblical teachings were to be condemned, that would mean a serious restriction of freedom of religion,” Rasanen noted in her statement.
Rasanen is married to a pastor, a mother of five, a grandmother of 10, a medical doctor, and a Christian Democrat. That’s the party with the second-fewest members in Finland’s current Parliament. It’s currently part of the nation’s governing coalition after right-leaning parties won big in April elections.
U.S. Ally Punishes Speech and Religion with Criminal Trials
Rasanen has also been minister of the interior for the country just granted U.S. military protection with Finland’s recent entrance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Finland just signed a $395 million deal with the United States for advanced rocket systems.
U.S. lawmakers called for the Biden administration to use the United States’s considerable leverage to urge Finland to stop prosecuting religious exercise and free speech, two natural human rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and international treaties.
“It is abundantly clear – the process is the punishment. The selective targeting of these high-profile individuals is designed to systematically chill others’ speech under the threat of legal harassment and social stigmatism,” wrote 16 House Republicans led by Rep. Chip Roy of Texas on Aug. 8 to the U.S. ambassador to Finland and the United States’ ambassador at large. “This case will have worldwide ramifications.”
A reported 500 Hungarians rallied outside their country’s Finnish embassy to show support for Rasanen and Pohjola on Thursday.
For decades in Finland, Rasanen has publicly represented Christian moral stances the left has politicized, such as pro-life and natural marriage. That has made her a target for LGBT activists. Those include the Helsinki prosecutor, now possibly determined to keep the Christians in court up to the European Court of Human Rights, proceedings that likely would take more than a decade.
“In all my career I have been known as a Christian and as a biblical Christian who doesn’t accept abortion and homosexual acts and so on. And I think that perhaps it is the reason why the prosecutor has targeted me,” Rasanen told The Federalist last summer at an “Issues, Etc.” conference in Chicago.
Finland maintains a state-supported Lutheran church, of which 70 percent of the population are technically members. Pohjola was kicked out of that church in 2014 for upholding the Bible’s commands concerning differences between men and women. He is now bishop of an independent Lutheran church body in the country. The Federalist interviewed him in person in 2021, including for The Federalist Radio Hour.
The appeals court decision is expected in one to three months, Rasanen said.