Finnish Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen has been caught in a legal turmoil for two and a half years now. She is going to be tried on January 24th for having expressed religious convictions about homosexuality inspired by the Bible. She is accused of having incited hatred against homosexuals, in violation of Section 10 of the Finnish Penal Code.
The scandal started with a tweet from her in reaction to her church’s support for the Pride march. Päivi Räsänen questioned the appropriateness of this support, recalling St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, chapter 1, verses 24-27: ” The men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
An initial complaint sparked an investigation against the congresswoman, which multiplied into five criminal complaints. In the course of the investigation, Päivi Räsänen was accused of wrongdoing by quoting St. Paul, publishing an essay in 2004, Man and Woman He Created Them, and by conducting a polemical interview on the question, “What would Jesus think of homosexuals?”
In two years, Päivi Räsänen will have been subjected to more than 13 hours of police interrogations requiring her to justify her remarks, interrogations she considers “perfectly absurd.”
“I sat there with the Bible on the table,” as the police asked “about my beliefs and [asking questions such as] ‘what do you think about what the Apostle Paul is teaching here’ or ‘what do you think about these verses where he speaks about homosexual acts’,” she said in a recently published interview with Alliance Defending Freedom.
The deputy courageously affirms that she experienced these trials as an opportunity, a “privilege” in her own words: “I had the chance to tell the police what the Bible says about the value of human beings, that all people are created in the image of God, and that is why they all are valuable.”
These interrogations were, in some respects, a test of Räsänen’s faith, since the police did not hesitate to ask her if she was ready to disavow her statements and remove them from the internet, requests she refused on the grounds that it is not a simple opinion for her, but a deep conviction.
Päivi Räsänen is up to the challenge, partly because her experience as Minister of the Interior of Finland, 2011-2015, grants her a certain amount of legitimacy. She knows the laws, knows how to enforce them, and also knows when they are being violated or misused for political advantage: “I would have never imagined when I was in charge of the police that I would be interrogated and asked that kind of questions in a police station.” She believes that the persecution she is subjected to is worthy of “Soviet times.”
Beyond her personal case, Päivi Räsänen is well aware that her struggle is much broader: “It is my honor to defend freedom of speech and religion.” She also draws the public’s attention to the risk of self-censorship that threatens all believers, in Finland and also abroad. She wants the public to see that she moves forward with a good conscience as the trial approaches, especially since she received much outpouring of support, including from political opponents.
She faces a sentence of two years in prison or a fine.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).