Christianity is the state religion of Finland. On paper, that is.
In reality, however, the Finnish government is prepared to put not just two Christians but the Bible on trial.
In opening arguments last week for the trial of former Member of Parliament Paivi Rasanen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola, prosecutors read out quotes from the Bible and deemed them “hate speech”.
Paul Coleman, a human rights lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom International, is assisting the two Finns’ legal defense. And he could barely believe his ears in the courtroom.
“I would characterize the day as a modern-day Inquisition or heresy trial. And the heresy was that Paivi and Bishop Juhana were on trial against the new sexual orthodoxy of the day.”
Both Rasanen and Pohjola are defending a pamphlet they both wrote and published in which they explain Christian teaching on sex and marriage. Even while the prosecutor began the trial by stating the case was not about beliefs and the Bible, she managed to switch gears by then rambling off Bible quotes. Coleman, in a phone interview with The Federalist, said “Finnish trial attorneys who have been in and out of court every day for years, said they didn’t think the Bible had ever been read out like that in a prosecution.” Coleman went on to state that the whole courtroom episode “was very surreal”.
Human rights advocates around the world, however, are curious as to whether the surreal will become commonplace in Western democracies. Coleman made note of the fact that most of the day was spent putting the Bible under the microscope, in an attempt to decipher its role in society. It marks the first time a Finnish court will rule whether quoting the Bible is a criminal offense.
Coleman, a Brit who was aided by courtroom translators, continued: “The prosecutor on more than one occasion questioned whether we in Finland follow Finnish law or the Bible, as if these things are so inherently contradictory that you have to choose one.”
Rasanen and Pohjola are both charged with publishing the 2004 pamphlet, but Rasanen is facing two other charges, as covered by ifamnews Italian editor Marco Respinti.
The trial resumes February 14th; the Feast Day of St. Valentine who, in the year 269, was beaten with clubs and beheaded for refusing to renounce his faith in Christ.