By Jonathon Van Maren
Finnish parliamentarian (and former cabinet minister) Päivi Räsänen has been persecuted by the state for years. As she told me last May in an interview for First Things, the police had interrogated her several times for hours simply for expressing her religious convictions on the sanctity of marriage. In a follow-up interview for LSN in September, Räsänen explained that she had become the subject of four separate criminal investigations. Shockingly, prosecutors have now brought three criminal charges against her. A prominent politician in a Western country has been criminally charged for quoting the Bible on sexuality. It is an unprecedented case, and Räsänen is the canary in the coal mine.
Räsänen is the wife of a Lutheran pastor, the mother of five, and the grandmother of six, and is a medical doctor as well as a politician. According to the Finnish news site YLE, however, she is a potentially dangerous criminal who made statements that the Prosecutor General called “derogatory and discriminatory against homosexuals” which “violate their equality and dignity.” Räsänen’s words, the Prosecutor General went on, “overstep the boundaries of free speech and religion and are likely to fuel intolerance, contempt, and hatred.” Again, the Prosecutor General is referring not to some hate-filled speech or videoed rant—he is referring to Räsänen’s quoting of Scripture.
For that, she faces up to two years in prison. If Räsänen is indeed jailed the impact on religious freedom in Finland and across the Western world would be staggering.