Tim Stanley in the Telegraph highlights the chilling case of Finnish MP and former Interior Minister (i.e., Home Secretary) Päivi Räsänen, whose prosecution by the state for her traditional Christian views on sex is a “canary in a coal mine” showing free speech in the West is dead – sacrificed in favour of banning ‘insults’.
Päivi Räsänen is a doctor, longstanding MP and former interior minister. In 2019, police opened an investigation into her for “incitement against a minority”. The accusation is based upon a tweet in which she asked why the Lutheran Church sponsored a Pride event; a debate in which she said God intends us to be straight; and a booklet she authored nearly 20 years ago that argued homosexuality is a developmental disorder.
The Finnish police concluded that no crime had been committed, but the prosecutor-general decided to charge her anyway. In 2022, Räsänen went to court: three judges, no jury, no witnesses and not even a victim to say they took offence. The judges decided in Räsänen’s favour; the prosecutor, who won’t take no for an answer, simply brought the case back via appeal. The second trial wrapped up last week, and if Räsänen is found guilty, she could face jail.
According to Paul Coleman, the executive director of ADF International, a religious advocacy group that threw its weight behind Räsänen, the prosecutor opened by insisting that this case is not about theology: you can quote the Bible as much as you like, the issue is how you interpret it, and Räsänen had done so in such a way that caused harm.
By Coleman’s account, the trial then became very theological indeed, with undergraduate-level questions such as: “What is the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament? Why are some passages of the Bible interpreted literally?”
It’s this line of inquiry that I think establishes Räsänen’s story as a canary in a coal mine. Until now, progressives seemed content to try to separate religion from the public sphere. But here we witness an agent of the state taking a big step into the private sphere, seeking not only to silence a point of view but also to challenge its intellectual basis and refute it.
There’s no escaping the inquisition. Räsänen might evoke the defence that she hates sin but loves the sinner, but the prosecution stated that this isn’t good enough in a modern society. Calling actions a sin insults the people who do them, and given that one’s identity can be defined by acts, it amounts to an attack on their very being. One might reply that many Christians feel a calling to evangelise, so stopping them from performing that particular action threatens their identity, too. Thus we see the consequences of European countries passing well-intentioned equalities legislation that seeks to safeguard every characteristic under the sun. Sexual preference is protected; so is religious belief. But what happens when they come into conflict?
Even if the judges once again find in Räsänen’s favour, the problem, of course, says Stanley, is that the case was brought at all. And it fits a pattern.