Deterrent effects and tragicomedy in Päivi Räsänen’s trial
It is amazing that a doctor and member of the parliament is now one of the most visible evangelists in Finland.
Uusi Tie · 15 SEPTEMBER 2023 · 10:26 CET
News headlines in Finland, as elsewhere, shout about drug deaths of young people, bullying, violence, corruption, economic crimes, war, porn, sexual abuse and natural disasters.
There would be enough problems to solve. What does the state prosecutor acting under the mandate of the Finnish state do? She spends huge sums of tax money and working hours to silence one citizen who has matter-of-factly and courageously defended the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexual ethics and the indivisible value of every person to their Creator.
Mother of five children, wife, Christian, parish activist, church influencer, member of parliament and ex-Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen; together with Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Missionary Diocese and Finnish Broadcasting Corporation; are both accused in a legal case that has attracted worldwide media attention. Christian human rights experts in particular have expressed their concern about the state of freedom of speech in Finland. The case proceeded to the Court of Appeal this fall.
”Cases like that of Päivi Räsänen create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming more common worldwide. We hope that the Helsinki Court of Appeal defends the basic right to freedom of speech and acquits Päivi Räsänen of these baseless charges”, commented lawyer Paul Coleman, who followed the appeal court proceedings. He is the executive director of Alliance Dedenending Freedom (ADF International), working in Räsänen’s legal team.
If the state prosecutor were to win the case, the deterrent effect of the entire legal process would be maximised. This can already be seen in the everyday lives of ordinary Finns.
Teachers attend trainings where they are encouraged to bring the narratives of gender ideology into school
For example, in a way that a teacher might ask a young schoolchild if there is anything wrong with two men or two women loving each other. Teachers attend trainings where they are encouraged to bring the narratives of gender ideology into the school world. If you answer the teacher’s question that love is a good thing, but same-sex relationships can never be equal to marriage (and therefore not problem-free - at least for Christians), and that according to Jesus one man and one woman belong to each other in marriage and this order is not to be broken... you will run into problems.
I know that because a schoolboy in our family had a conversation like this with his teacher two years ago. That’s why many of us remain silent when various authorities challenge us.
In connection with the Court of Appeal hearing, Päivi Räsänen urged her supporters and the media to use freedom of speech and especially encouraged Christians to talk about matters of faith.
”Ultimately, it’s about eternity. In the Bible, God promises eternal life to those who believe in him. Therefore, we should adhere to the word of the Bible and classical Christianity. This is the reason why I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion at all levels of the courts, if necessary”, she said.
It is amazing that a doctor and member of the parliament is now one of the most visible evangelists in our country. It is worrisome that the bishops of our church and many theologians in other important positions have remained silent about this lawsuit, except for a few interviews disapproving of Räsänen.
Räsänen stated that thanks to the state prosecutor, the short document had been read more diligently than ever before
An important detail in the legal case is the role of public brocadcaster Yleisradio. The prosecutor demands that Räsänen’s words (two minutes) be removed from the radio program she was asked to participate in, in 2019. Then, Räsäsen was challenged, among other things, to think about what causes homosexuality. The Yle journalistic leadership has rejected the demands: ”This is a very central issue from the point of view of freedom of speech”, the state broadcaster’s lawyer Martina Kronström told the Court of Appeal. She lawyer quoted journalistic principles to which Yle is committed. The core task of journalism is to collect, verify and present information about socially important, current and interesting issues and people, she explained. That is undoubtedly why Päivi Räsänen had also been asked to be a guest on the radio program.
The transmission of information is the cornerstone of an open society and democracy. The mission of Finnish broadcasting Company (Yleisradio/Yle), which is maintained with tax funds from all Finns, is to support tolerance and equality. It was interesting in itself that the Yle journalists who were present at the Court of Appeal had attached their press cards to rainbow-colored lanyards. A contradictory message, since their lawyer had just emphasised the genuine pluralism of information transmission in the courtroom. The journalists’ signal were indeed a strong statement in favor of gender ideology.
In the Court of Appeal hearing, Paul Coleman aptly stated that he sees elements of a tragicomedy in the court hearing. I followed the session of the second day of the proceedings in the hall next to the main hall. The state prosecutor grilled Päivi Räsänen about the pamphlet published by the Luther Foundation, where Räsänen opens up about Christian family and sexual ethics.
The prosecutor asked why Räsänen shared the writing on social media. Because she wanted people to be able to read the text themselves, she responded, because the content of the text had been distorted in public. Räsänen said the booklet she authored in 2004, Male and Female He created them, could now be in the basement of her home if charges had not been brought against her and the Luther Foundation for its content and publication. Räsänen stated that thanks to the state prosecutor, the short document had been read more diligently than ever before.
It is scary to think that we move towards a more controlled culture of debate
Even if Räsänen lost the legal case this time, that would still not make socially and religiously difficult topics disappear. However, it is sad and scary to think that we would move towards a more controlled culture of conversation and debate.
That is exactly why it is time to wake up, delve into the Bible, pray for the grace of spiritual awakening for us and and others, and speak boldly about Jesus and his acts of salvation - near and far.
Virpi Kurvinen, writer for the Finnish magazine Uusi Tie and theologian.