A Finnish court in Helsinki has dismissed all charges against a member of parliament and a Christian bishop, both of whom were charged with committing “hate speech” for their remarks on homosexuality.
The prosecutors hit former minister Päivi Räsänen with hate speech charges, claiming that her description of homosexuality as “shameful” and “homosexuality” represented an “affront to the equality and dignity of homosexuals.”
The prosecution fell flat because Finland’s laws do not criminalize hurting anyone’s feelings, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Räsänen, an MP for Finland’s Christian Democrats party, who served as Finland’s Interior Minister from 2011 to 2015, was charged with incitement against a minority group. Prosecutors claimed that her statements were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”
The court declared in a unanimous ruling on March 30 that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts,” and ordered the state to pay legal costs to the defense of more than 60,000 euros.
“I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favour. I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted,” said Räsänen following the ruling. “Although I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal.”
According to Catholic World Report, the charges against Räsänen related to comments she made in a 2004 pamphlet, an appearance on a 2018 television program, and a tweet in 2019.
The charge against Juhana Pohjola, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, concerned his decision to publish Räsänen’s pamphlet, “Male and Female: He Created Them.”
In addition to the court's decision not to interpret biblical terms, the court ruled that “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.”
Räsänen was attempting to “defend the concept of family and marriage between man and woman,” the court said.