An evangelical Christian member of the Finnish Parliament went on trial in Helsinki Monday, accused of “hate speech” in connection with her comments and writings on homosexuality and for citing Biblical passages defining homosexual acts as sin.
Dr. Päivi Räsänen, a physician who served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, said in a statement she denies any wrongdoing. The 26-year member of parliament said she faces “up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine” on the charge of “ethnic agitation” as presented in court by prosecutor Anu Mantila.
Finnish Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen announced the charges in April, claiming, “In her writing, [Dr.] Räsänen has expressed opinions and information that are degrading to homosexuals.”
Also facing charges is the Rev. Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the country’s Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese, which published Dr. Räsänen’s 2004 booklet, “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity.”
“I categorically reject the prosecutor’s characterization of my beliefs,” Dr. Räsänen said. “I have repeatedly emphasized that all human beings are created in the image of God and have equal dignity and human rights.”
The physician-lawmaker asserted Ms. Toiviainen’s interpretation of human rights law “would have a material impact on the narrowing of the scope of religious freedom in Finland — and is therefore highly damaging from the perspective of fundamental rights.”
The government’s case against Dr. Räsänen began in June 2019 when she posted a Twitter message questioning the support of Lutheran church leadership for a gay pride parade.
Dr. Räsänen said she included a screenshot of four verses from Romans 1:24-27 which call homosexual acts “shameful.”
She said the point of tweeting the Scriptures was to criticize “the leadership of my own church, not any minority.” However, she said, the prosecutor general “ordered preliminary investigations to be carried out” on charges concerning the 2004 booklet and what she called “a humorous radio interview.”
According to a Finnish blog following the proceedings, Mr. Pohjola told the court the “Male and Female” booklet reflects “the Christian understanding” of humanity, and that God “wants to forgive the sins of every human being.”
According to Euronews, the doctor described homosexuality as a “disorder of psychosexual development” and labeled homosexuals as “dysfunctional.”
The 62-year-old doctor was seen carrying a copy of the Bible with her as she arrived in court Monday.
After a day of testimony in which Dr. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola each defended their actions, the court adjourned until Feb. 14 for a subsequent hearing.
Dr. Räsänen predicted, “It is likely that the charges will be taken to higher courts, even to the European Court of Human Rights. I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts.”