Roy, Perkins Meet with Finnish Ambassador over the Prosecution of Finnish Christians
On Wednesday, Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins met with Finnish Ambassador Mikko Hautala to discuss the high-profile court case of Finnish Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola.
In their meeting with the ambassador, Roy and Perkins expressed their concerns that the prosecution of Rasanen and Bishop Pohjola demonstrated an anti-Christian bias from the Finnish government and could act to further chill expression of religious belief when it comes to controversial political topics. They also questioned the ambassador about whether the Finnish government might make a change to the law to ensure that faithful Christians are not prosecuted under hate speech provisions in the future.
Räsänen was charged by Finland’s state prosecutor in 2020 with three counts of “ethnic agitation” under a hate speech law in the criminal code for articulating a Christian understanding of marriage and sexuality in a tweet, a radio show, and a 20-year-old pamphlet. Bishop Pohjola was charged with one count of “ethnic agitation” for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet.
On March 30, 2022, the Helsinki District Court acquitted Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, stating that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” However, the Finnish state prosecutor Anu Mantila then appealed the decision, sending Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola back to court. The trial for the appeal took place on August 31 and September 1.
The retrial largely rehashed the prosecution’s arguments from the first trial, which included questioning Räsänen about core Christian doctrines, including about sin. Mantila argued in her appeal that the district court set the threshold for “incitement” too high, and that Räsänen’s tweet, radio comments, and pamphlet about homosexuality constituted “incitement.”
Roy and Perkins have both raised awareness about the case. In a joint op-ed published in September, they wrote:
“Make no mistake: Anti-Christ spiritual forces, at work through ‘progressive’ civilizational anarchists, have set out to banish the truth of Scripture (right now on marriage, family, and sexuality) from our society’s public spaces and public places of conversation.
What succeeds now in Finland will inevitably arrive on our own shores. If the Bible is indeed labeled as hate speech, or even banned, the freedoms we hold so dearly in this country will be severely tested.
First Amendment freedoms are the natural inalienable rights of all men and must be vigilantly protected in the United States and abroad. Any ‘hate speech’ classification that criminalizes the private thoughts in one’s own brain can quickly become an arbitrary and capricious process, as we see in Finland.”
In February 2022, Family Research Council collected over 14,300 prayer pledges from people committing to pray for Räsänen during her trial, and FRC Special Advisor for Religious Freedom Andrew Brunson delivered the prayer pledges in person on one of her trial days at the Helsinki District Court.
Now, Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola are awaiting the decision from the appeals court, which is expected to be handed down by November 30.
Arielle Del Turco is Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, and co-author of "Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution."