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The Courage of Her Convictions: An Interview with Päivi Räsänen by Jonathon Van Maren

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Interview

The Courage of Her Convictions: An Interview with Päivi Räsänen

"The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), 88 x 150 cm oil on canvas, located in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.

Photo: Public Domain.

It has finally happened: in a Western nation, a prominent politician is on trial facing fines or two years in prison for quoting the Bible in public.

For decades, religious conservatives have warned that the sexual revolution and Scripture were on a collision course. Society could be based on revolution, or revelation—but not both. If condemning homosexuality is, as LGBT activists claim, hate speech, then the Bible is filled with it. Still, the revolutionaries insisted that they believed in freedom of speech, and that those who pointed out the obvious logical conclusion of their long march through the institutions were fearmongering paranoiacs.

But with the collapse of laws that restricted sexual behaviour in order to organize society around the natural family and the rise of laws enshrining new civil rights for those who identified as LGBT, the West faces inevitable conflicts. Societies based on Judeo-Christian values were now being reorganized around principles in direct conflict with those foundational beliefs—beliefs that the sexual revolutionaries were eager to do away with. All freedoms—freedom of religion, of speech, of parents to educate their children—have become subject to sexual freedom. And, one by one, the predictions of religious conservatives are coming true.

Sexual revolutionaries copiously use lies to lull Christians into acquiescence—and then, when conflicts arise, their true agenda is revealed. As Rod Dreher points out, sexual revolutionaries spout two contradictory claims at the same time: “It’s a complete absurdity that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

No one knows this better than Finnish MP and former cabinet minister Päivi Räsänen, who is currently being tried for an alleged violation of Section 10 of the Finnish Penal Code. Specifically, Räsänen is charged with inciting hatred against LGBT people—a charge based solely on a 2004 essay in which she defended traditional marriage; a 2019 tweet critiquing her church’s support for Pride Month citing Romans 1: 24-27; and her defence in TV interviews and radio debates of the Christian view of sexuality. The fact that in several of these instances, she was invited explicitly to represent the Christian perspective on these issues has not prevented multiple criminal complaints, police interrogations, and finally, prosecution.

Despite her two-year ordeal, Räsänen never suspected that she would be put on trial. She is very aware that Christians around the world are watching her case, and she feels that representing them is both a great honour and responsibility. She answered questions for The European Conservative in this exclusive interview.

INTERVIEW

How does it feel to be facing prosecution in a Western nation for quoting the Bible in public?

It feels surreal. I was very surprised by the prosecutor general’s decision to file charges against me. It feels unreal to be criminally charged for voicing my deeply held beliefs in a country that has such deep roots in freedom of speech and religion. To my knowledge, for the first time ever the court has to take a stand on whether it is legal or not to cite the Bible. The judges have to weigh the relationship between the foundational rights and the criminal law and the interrelationship between different foundational laws. I never thought that citing the Bible and agreeing with it could be criminal.

How has the LGBT community in Finland and elsewhere reacted to your prosecution?

I have been a member of the Finnish Parliament for 26 years and have been open about my faith and Christian values the entire time. Throughout my parliamentary career I have received much criticism, much of it about these statements for which I am now going to court. But the vast majority of the feedback I have got has been very positive, and I have also received support from openly homosexual people. They have said that I should have the right to speak according to my faith in a free society, although they themselves might disagree with me. In a democratic country, we must have the possibility to disagree. Otherwise we are not living in a democratic country anymore.

How confident are you that you will win in court?

I am confident. I believe that the international conventions and the Constitution of Finland that guarantee fundamental rights such as freedom of religion and free speech are on my side. But even if I do not win, I think this whole chain of events is part of my calling as a Christian influencer. I will not back down from my conviction based on the Bible and I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts. I have stated that my views represent the traditional views of all Christian churches on marriage.

Does this trial itself set a precedent for similar proceedings, regardless of the outcome?

Yes, it does. Most likely, I am facing a series of trials that will take several years. I expect this case to go even to the European Court of Human Rights. My case sets a precedent in Finland, but also more widely. The deep concern for free speech and freedom of religion is not limited to Finland only. The decision of the court will set a significant precedent that may impact legislation across Europe. What is at stake is religious freedom and free speech, and whether we are allowed to present opinions based on the Bible.

The decision of the court has consequences not only to Christians’ freedom to express their conviction, but also for everyone else’s freedoms. In the court, I appealed to the Constitution of Finland and to international conventions that guarantee freedom of speech and religion. I will not back away from my biblically based convictions.

Have you received support from politicians in both your country and elsewhere?

Yes, very much so. I am very grateful for the huge national and international support I have received. I have received thousands of messages from Finland and abroad, also from politicians, and people have told me that God has encouraged them to pray and trust his word through my case. When cases like mine arise, the international community should voice their concern over such attacks on free speech.

What can Christians everywhere do to support you?

I appreciate prayers very much. People can pray that righteousness and justice would prevail in Finland, that Christians would not be afraid of speaking up during these challenging times, and that my case would set a positive precedent for the future regarding Christians and their right to express their faith in the public. I am also thankful for prayers for my family.

Christians should encourage their countries to adhere to their national and international commitments to protect the freedom of speech and be courageous in speaking according to their faith in the public.

Also, if people want to, they can support my case by supporting a new association that was established to support my case. The Finnish Association for Freedom of Speech and Religion was founded in June to support the case and possibly similar cases in the future. It does not yet have English sites, but it will soon. Or as another option, people can support ADF International, which is strongly supporting me both legally and otherwise. 

Jonathon Van Maren has written for First Things, National Review, The American Conservative, and is a contributing editor to The European Conservative. His latest book is Prairie Lion: The Life & Times of Ted Byfield.

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