On Thursday, August 31, Dr. Päivi Räsänen, a Finnish physician and parliamentarian, was in court in Helsinki once again. She has been in court for years, fighting hate crime charges for writing a pamphlet defending the Christian view of marriage as well quoting Scripture online and defending Scripture in the press. The Finnish prosecutor made her case crystal clear. Referring to Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet, she stated: “The point isn’t whether it is true or not, but that it is insulting.” That, in essence, is the gist of the state’s case against Räsänen.
For a summary of the persecution of Dr. Päivi Räsänen, you can read one of my previous reports (including an interview) here — I have been tracking this story for years. In March of last year, she was acquitted on all charges. But the Finnish authorities—urged on by LGBT activists — are refusing to cease their persecution of Räsänen despite setback after setback. Despite no new evidence and despite a definitive acquittal, the State prosecutor decided to appeal the verdict. If Räsänen is acquitted again, they can appeal again. ADF International is fundraising her legal expenses or the costs might have already bankrupted her.
Dr. Päivi Räsänen graciously agreed to answer my questions.
Why is a retrial occurring after such a definitive verdict?
In Finland, the threshold for obtaining an appeal (which in this case is like a retrial) is very low, and the State prosecutor had a right to appeal the verdict. The case they put before us this time was very much a repetition of the first – there was no new evidence submitted, and again, no witnesses were offered as examples of real citizens who had been allegedly offended by any of my words.
You have been steadfast throughout this entire ordeal. What is your personal reaction to having to go through yet another trial?
It is painful to be accused of having been hateful, when I know that all my words have come from a place of love, which is at the heart of scripture. But I’m glad for the opportunity to defend freedom of speech in a democratic society; and to defend freedom for all people of faith, or none, to be able to express their views without fear. Despite the ordeal, I’ve been so grateful for thousands of supporters around the world who have encouraged me, my husband Niilo, my five children and ten grandchildren, my defense lawyer Matti Sankamo, the whole team at ADF International, and all those around the world who have been praying for me and sending me messages of support.
Is this trial an example of “the process is the punishment” — that is, opponents of Christianity attempting to show how costly they can make it to quote the Bible publicly even if you ultimately win?
Yes indeed. It has been over four years and during that time I have endured hours of police interrogation in addition to two criminal trials. It has been exhausting and of course the state has unlimited public resources to prosecute me. I have also had my words twisted and taken out of context and been accused of saying things I didn’t say and believing things I don’t believe. It seems that I am being made an example of – because as they seek to censor a politician with a public platform, there are no doubt many who see this taking place and choose to stay silent about their beliefs. That’s why it’s so important that we win – not only for me, but for everybody watching, to have confidence in the protection of free speech in the West.