The court case of Päivi Räsänen in Finland is by no means over. On Wednesday, the Helsinki Public Prosecutor’s Office appealed the ruling that cleared the former interior minister of charges of “homophobia” and incitement to hatred.
In a statement issued the day after the verdict, prosecutor Raija Toiviainen said: “The district court interprets Räsänen’s statements differently from the prosecutor. […] This does not mean that the prosecutor has provided false information. There is nothing false in the allegations.”
Juhana Pohjola, Lutheran bishop of the Diocese of Evangelical Lutheran Mission, co-defendant in the Räsänen trial and also cleared of the charges, will also likely see the verdict of his acquittal challenged.
Ready to defend anyone’s freedom
“This case has been weighing on me and my family for almost three years,” Räsänen said upon hearing about the appeal. “After the tribunal completely exonerated me, I am dismayed that the prosecutor does not want to end this campaign against me. Once again, I am ready to defend the freedom of expression and religious freedom not only for me, but for everyone.”
“Dragging people to court for years, subjecting them to hour-long police interrogations and wasting taxpayer money to trample on deeply held beliefs is not worthy of a democratic society,” Coleman said. “As is often the case in ‘hate speech’ proceedings, the process became part of the punishment.”
U.S. conservatives in solidarity
In an email sent to The Washington Times, former U.S. Ambassador for Worldwide Religious Freedom Sam Brownback deplored the prosecutor’s appeal.
“First of all, it was wrong to pursue free speech, but even worse is to appeal a unanimous decision,” declares the former Kansas governor. “Freedom of speech in the religious sphere is freedom of expression, but freedom of expression is a myth if it does not also include freedom of speech in the religious sphere. The prosecutor does not understand the meaning of freedom.”
Brownback is not the only U.S. politician to criticize the prosecution in the Räsänen trial. In January, Republican Senators Marco Rubio (Florida), Josh Hawley (Missouri), James Lankford and James Inhofe (Oklahoma) and Mike Braun (Indiana) asked Ambassador Rashad Hussain, Brownback’s successor for religious freedom, to “condemn these unjust prosecutions.”
“Cancel culture threatens democracy.”
Interviewed by Christian Today, Räsänen reiterates that she feels ready to “defend freedom of expression and religious freedom in any court of law that is necessary, including the European Court of Human Rights,” because the ruling that exonerated her is “important for Christians who believe in the Bible,” but even more so “for freedom of expression.”
The ruling itself “provides a sound and solid basis for defending fundamental rights before the Court of Appeals.” To prevent the ambiguous “incitement to hatred” laws from backfiring on Christians, it is, in short, “important to win this case,” the former Finnish minister stresses.
For Räsänen, it is important to “speak publicly about the Gospel” and to “manifest one’s faith,” otherwise the space for expressing it “will become more and more restricted. The longer one remains silent, the greater the risk of laws that aim to limit freedom of expression.” And so “the international community must express its concern about any kind of attack on freedom of expression. Anyone must be free to express beliefs they deeply believe in without fear of censorship or criminal sanctions.”
It is therefore necessary, says Räsänen, “to put pressure on parliaments and other levels of power, both nationally and internationally” to “raise awareness of the dangers of censorship and cancel culture, which are threats to any democracy”.