Finland’s anti-Christian bigotry rebuked
But the case against a Finnish member of Parliament tells us a lot about Europe and its values
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What a world we live in. In Finland, a brand-new NATO ally, a member of Parliament (and former cabinet minister, no less) was charged with the crime of hate speech for tweeting a Bible verse. Europe, once a bastion of Christianity, has come to this. The good news is that the Finnish parliamentarian was not convicted. The bad news is that she was ever charged in the first place.
The charges stem from three statements made by Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen. In 2019, she tweeted an image of Romans 1:24-27. Also in 2019, she expressed similar skepticism of same-sex relations on a radio program. And in 2004, she authored a pamphlet: “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relations Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity.” For these statements she was charged with breaking a national law, “war crimes and crimes against humanity,” which in particular criminalizes “agitation against a minority group.” The penalty for such hate speech is up to two years in prison.
In a particularly outrageous rendition of things, the prosecutor said, “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.” Of course, in this instance Räsänen’s tweet was three Bible verses. But even if it was an interpretation or opinion about the Bible, it is outrageous to say someone’s theology is criminal. The prosecutor continued, “The point isn’t whether it is true or not but that it is insulting.” This logic is hard to track: Usually the truth of the statement asserted is a full defense to defamation, little less a criminal charge. But setting that aside, it is a scary world indeed when verbal statements that are “insulting” are now “crimes against humanity.”
Thankfully, the Alliance Defending Freedom’s international arm stepped up to defend Räsänen. The trial court found her not guilty, and this week an intermediate appellate court confirmed that ruling. Even then, the opinions from both courts are not exactly ringing encomia to free speech, even if they get the result right.
What are we to make of this mess? As Christians, Christ promises trouble in this world, and Räsänen has been dealt more than her share. Even with the not-guilty decision, she still has been through four years of investigation, prosecution, and hearings. Nor is her ordeal over: The prosecutor has the option to appeal to Finland’s Supreme Court and drag this whole dreary affair out yet further. Thankfully she has not been thrown to the actual lions, but she’s still had to face down the anger of the prosecutor, the media, and elite opinion. Her political career will be defined not by her accomplishments, rising to interior minister, but by this fight for free speech.
Second, thank God we live in America. Our nation, founded by religious refugees fleeing the state-imposed orthodoxy of established churches in Europe, has a bulwark for religious opinions in the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. And when we express any opinions out loud, they have the further protection of the free speech clause. Together these are a durable redoubt in law, but they are also strong because the American people value free speech and religious liberty—they are ingrained in our national DNA. We must preserve and protect those values and transmit them to the next generation, but they are still core to who we are.
Third, this is a stark reminder the same is not true of our European allies. The nations of Europe have been with us through two world wars, the Cold War, and other efforts in our common quest for a free world built on shared democratic values. But that common foundation in human rights does not always work out the same in the specifics. As George Weigel points out so eloquently in his little book The Cube and the Cathedral, there is a struggle on for the soul of Europe, and the Christians are not winning—and have not been winning for some time. Thankfully ADF and Päivi Räsänen are victorious this round.
Finally, our answer to the nature of the human person as expressed through our bodies, especially our sexuality, is the defining fault line of our times. Many other issues are important, but the ones on which they will not just cancel your social media or bank account, but actually send you to jail, come back to sex: abortion and same-sex relations. That’s the world we live in.
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