Religious freedom in Europe case is a ‘warning’, highlights need to protect freedom of expression and religion


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A religious freedom case in Finland could have a chilling effect on free speech around the world and underscore the need to protect freedom of speech and religion, those involved in the legal battle have said.

Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola were acquitted of all charges in their religious liberty case on Wednesday. Räsänen has faced three charges of ethnic agitation for a 2004 pamphlet, for participating in a discussion on a radio show in 2019 and, most recently, for tweeting an image of the Bible.

In a 2019 tweet, Räsänen questioned his church’s sponsorship of an LGBTQ Pride event and linked to an Instagram post with a photo of Romans 1:24-27.

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Pohjola faced one count of ethnic agitation for hosting a pamphlet written by Räsänen on his church’s website.

Lorcan Price of Alliance Defending Freedom International, which was helping with the case, called it a “clear warning”.

“[The case acts] as a clear warning, I think, that any attempt to erode free speech and criminalize speech leads to situations where you find clearly oppressive action being taken against individuals for expressing their religious beliefs in the square public,” Price told Fox News Digital.

Finnish Christian Democrat MP Paivi Rasanen (R) holds a bible as she arrives with her husband Niilo Rasanen to attend a hearing at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.

Räsänen added that the trial highlighted the importance of using religious freedoms, lest they be taken away.

“It’s important that we use these freedoms that we have,” Räsänen told Fox News Digital. “Because the more we conceal our beliefs and convictions, the more the space for these freedoms shrinks.”

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“These charges should never have gone to court, but the fact that they did, and even with today’s acquittal and the not guilty verdict, it will still give people a thinking about whether or not they themselves could go through the same ordeal of a police investigation and legal process for a trial,” Price added.

Price also warned that because of liberal and ideological prosecutors, religious liberty cases like Räsänen’s could become more common.

Paivi Rasanen, MP for the Finnish Christian Democrats, holds a bible as she addresses the media ahead of a hearing at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.

Paivi Rasanen, MP for the Finnish Christian Democrats, holds a bible as she addresses the media ahead of a hearing at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.
((Photo by ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images))

“We believe these prosecutions were motivated by ideological bias on the part of the attorney general,” he said.

“We’re going to see more of that, and as long as prosecutors are driven by ideology, and if like-minded authorities believe that…if someone offends you, it’s a criminal act, then we’re going to see more of that. these lawsuits,” he added.

Räsänen said she was relieved and happy with the verdict, calling it an “important decision” for freedom of speech and religion, but noted that the prosecution would likely appeal the case.

Finnish Christian Democrat MP Paivi Rasanen arrives to attend a hearing at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.

Finnish Christian Democrat MP Paivi Rasanen arrives to attend a hearing at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland.
((Photo by ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images))

Price said the Helsinki District Court’s verdict left a “very narrow” path for an appeal, but it was unlikely to stop the prosecutor, who is under pressure from the political left.

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Romans 1:24-27, which Räsänen tweeted, reads: “Therefore God delivered them in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degradation of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them up to shameful lust. Even their wives exchanged natural sexual relations against unnatural relations. In the same way, men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for each other. Men committed shameful acts with other men. and have received in themselves the penalty due for their error.(New international version)


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