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Home/Rod Dreher/Finland Persecutes Christian Lawmaker

Finland Persecutes Christian Lawmaker

Päivi Räsänen, Lutheran, Finnish MP, and indicted hate criminal (CBN)

I had breakfast this morning in Budapest with a Hungarian-American businessman who follows my work, and reached out to invite me to meet him. “You look just like your Twitter photo,” he said when we met. He has been living in Budapest for some time, and conducts business internationally. Though born in the US, he grew up speaking Hungarian (his parents fled Communism), so he’s got the skills that enable him to flourish in transcontinental business.

We talked about many things, but at one point, he said, “My mother still lives in America. She tells me that it’s not the same country I left.” Of course he follows the US media, and told me that it is infuriating to read how Hungary is portrayed.

“You are sitting next to the Fifth Avenue of Budapest,” he said, referring to nearby Andrassy Avenue. “The only people Western journalists ever seem to talk to live within a two-mile radius of this street.”

Later, as I was headed home from work, I thought about how someone could stand on Andrassy holding a sign saying, “Viktor Orban, Go To Hell,” and nothing would happen to them. What do you think would happen to someone standing on the corner of Fifth and 45th in Manhattan, holding up a sign saying, “Black Lives Matter Sucks,” or “Homosexuality Is A Sin”? Yet Hungary is the illiberal horror show, we are told.

I can tell you what would happen to you in the liberal democracy of Finland if you said homosexuality is a sin. It happened on this very day to Päivi Räsänen, a Finnish Lutheran member of Parliament. Here’s the press release from the state prosecutor. Google Translate version is below:

The Prosecutor General has filed charges against MP Päivi Räsänen for three incitements against a group of people, and against Juhana Pohjola, an agent and board member of the Finnish Luther Foundation, for incitement against a group of people.

… The charges are based on three different sets of issues.

Räsänen has written, “God created them as men and women. Gay relationships challenge the Christian conception of man.” In her writing, Räsänen has presented opinions and information that denigrate homosexuals. Among other things, Räsänen has claimed that homosexuality is a scientifically proven disorder of psychosexual development. Pohjola has published the article on the websites of the Finnish Luther Foundation and the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission.

In addition, Räsänen has published on her Twitter and Instagram account and Facebook page an opinion that denigrates homosexuals, according to which homosexuality is a shame and a sin. [Note: She tweeted out a Bible verse. — RD]

Räsänen, on the program of the Yle Puhe radio channel, in its episode “What did Jesus think about gays?” made derogatory statements about homosexuals. In it, Räsänen has said that if homosexuality is genetic, then it is a genetic degeneration and a genetic disease that causes the disease. In Räsänen’s view, homosexuals are also not created by God like heterosexuals.

According to the indictment, the statements further specified in Räsänen’s indictments are derogatory and discriminatory against homosexuals. The statements violate the equality and dignity of homosexuals, so they transcend the boundaries of freedom of speech and religion.

The Attorney General believes that Räsänen’s statements are likely to cause intolerance, contempt and hatred towards homosexuals.

Ever seen Päivi Räsänen speak? She is a small, middle-aged woman of surpassing gentleness — but she has more courage than tens of thousands of Finnish Christians who are afraid to take her side. Here is a good report from Dale Hurd at CBN just over a year ago, explaining the background of the investigation. Hear Päivi talk for yourself:

In 2019, I published an interview I did with Dr. Räsänen about the investigation. Here, by the way, is the tweet that got her criminally charged today (“Kirkko” is “church”; she’s calling out her own ecclesial body for endorsing the Pride celebration):

 

And so, in the liberal democratic nation of Finland, a Lutheran woman who is a member of Parliament has now been indicted for hate speech because she proclaimed Biblical teaching. There is absolutely no question that if American liberals could get away with it (that is, if not for the First Amendment), they would do the same thing.

But remember your catechism: countries like Hungary are the real illiberal democracies. All the people who write me constantly, telling me how afraid they are for their jobs and livelihoods if their employers or co-workers found out that they don’t endorse Black Lives Matter, or don’t agree with gender ideology — they officially don’t exist. The New York Times and the Washington Post never, ever pay attention to them. Nor, of course, do the networks, or NPR. The fact that the state prosecutor in Finland is going to put on trial a 61-year-old former Minister of the Interior for tweeting a Bible verse critical of homosexuality, and for writing a pamphlet 15 years ago laying out the traditional Christian view of marriage, will not even make the news back home. We Americans are being gaslighted by our own illiberal left-wing media.

But now you know about the persecution of Päivi Räsänen, because you read it here. Write a polite but firm letter to Ms. Raija Toiviainen, the Prosecutor General, at: valtakunnansyyttaja.syyttaja — at — oikeus.fi

Also, send a polite but firm letter to the Finnish ambassador to the US, His Excellency Mikko Hautala, at sanomat.was — at — formin.fi

It is outrageous that this anti-Christian persecution is happening, especially in a liberal democracy. Shame on Finland. You are better than this. I hope that the Finnish church finds its voice to stand up for Dr. Räsänen. Certainly Christians in the US and other countries have absolutely nothing to lose by speaking out for her.

UPDATE: Dr. Räsänen has made a public statement:

Yesterday morning, I received by phone the information that the Prosecutor General has decided to prosecute me in three cases. The application for summons has been delivered to the District Court of Helsinki. I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group, which carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years. The three charges filed against me are about the following cases. Firstly, a pamphlet I wrote in 2004 “Male and female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity”. A charge have also been filed against Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland was in charge of publishing the pamphlet.

The second charge is about a tweet I published 17 June 2019 in my social media accounts. In addition to Twitter, I published my tweet in Facebook and Instagram. In the tweet, I questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019 and accompanied my publication with a photo of Bible, from the Letter to the Romans 1:24-27. The third charge is about my views presented in one program of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, when I visited a talk show series hosted by Ruben Stiller and discussed the topic “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”.

The decision of the Prosecutor General is surprising, even shocking. I do not think I have committed threatening, defaming or insulting a minority group. In all these three cases, the question is about the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches. I do not see I would have in any way defamed homosexuals whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend. The Bible’s teaching is, however, very clear in the teaching that marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.

The Apostle Paul’s teaching is not only about defending marriage between man and woman, but about how a human being is saved into eternal life. If the teachings of God’s word about sin are rejected, also the whole core of Christian faith is made empty: the precious sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sake of everyone’s sins and the way He opened into eternity.

There is a difficulty here far greater than a sentence of a fine or an imprisonment: a demand for censorship: an order to remove my social media postings or a ban on the publication of the pamphlet. If one defies the court’s verdict, it leads to demands of penalty payments. This sort of judgement would open up an avenue leading to further publication bans for similar texts and modern book burnings.

It is noteworthy that with regard to the pamphlet case and the tv episode with Stiller, the police stated that there was no reason to suspect a crime. The pre-trial investigation should not have even been commenced according to their decision. The police stated in their decision: “if some of the views in the Bible were to be regarded as per se fulfilling the criteria of an agitation offense, the dissemination of or making the Bible available would in principle be punishable as an offense of agitation.” This has deeply to do with free speech and freedom of religion.

I will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected. A conviction based on the Christian faith is more than [a superficial] opinion. The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a court room. I will not step back from my conviction nor from my writings. I do not apologize for the writings of the Apostle Paul either. I am ready to defend freedom speech and religion as far as is necessary.

The offence of agitation requires intentionality. In our Criminal Code the concept of intentionality is placed as criteria regarding the purpose of the author and the fact that the author perceives the nature of the act as a culpable legal infringement. In evaluating guilt, one must strive to genuinely understand the background and purpose of the author. As a Member of Parliament, I has been involved in the enactment of this precise amendment to our legislation.  It did not even come to mind that my tweet or my opinions based on Christianity could be defamatory or insulting in any aspect.

I want to encourage others to use their freedom of speech and religion. This indictment shows that right now is the time to defend these foundational freedoms and rights.

The Prosecutor General has previously publicly told that she has, because of my cases, received inappropriate messages. I hope that no insulting messages would be targeted against her.

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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