As the Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen begins her trial at Helsinki’s Court of Appeal on Thursday for her Christian belief in traditional marriage, the silence from Western political leaders is deafening.
If an LGBT campaigner were on trial in a European country for criticising traditional Christian teaching, imagine the outcry from political leaders in the European Union, the UK and the US.
The US ambassador to Hungary, David Pressman, who in July led an embassy delegation at Budapest Pride, has been vocal in criticising the democratically-elected Hungarian Parliament for outlawing the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
Mrs Räsänen, Finland’s former Minister of the Interior (the equivalent of the UK’s Home Secretary), has faced a four-year legal ordeal for a Tweet criticising Helsinki Pride in 2019 and for her comments on a radio show in 2018 and in a church booklet in 2004. She was acquitted of all charges by Helsinki District Court in March 2022 but Finland’s state prosecutor appealed the decision.
Her case has attracted some political support in the US and the UK but not much. In January 2022, three Christian MPs launched a motion in her support in the House of Commons and five US Senators wrote to the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain. They warned that her trial could open the door for a “secular blasphemy law” against Christians, Muslims and Jews expressing countercultural views on marriage and sexuality.
During a visit to the UK in July this year, she got some media support but not the level of profile she would have had in the mainstream media if she had been a LGBT campaigner facing trial in her own country. The Critic magazine published an article by her in which she wrote: “In 2019, I asked my church, on Twitter, where in the Bible it had found justification to sponsor the Helsinki Pride Parade. I attached a picture of a Bible verse.
“As a result, I faced lengthy police interrogations over my religious views — from officers whom I used to have the responsibility of leading. I was the Minister of the Interior in Finland for over four years.
“I was then charged for my ‘crime’ under a section of the Finnish criminal code titled ‘War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity’. The charge brought against me carried a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison.”
She concluded: “We’ll soon find out if the expression of my Christian, Biblically-based beliefs are criminal acts in modern day Finland. If so, we might have a problem with anyone quoting or preaching from the Bible in my country. Even those who merely dare to challenge the established teaching of the most dominant ideological ‘church’ of our day are in for trouble.”
She was also interviewed in July on GB News by former cabinet minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg. He asked her: “I thought Finland was a liberal country that believed in freedom of speech. So how could you be charged under war crimes legislation?”
She replied: “I have to say that this has been a big surprise also for me. I have been 28 years in public life in Parliament but what has happened now during four years has been absurd.