A Christian politician in Finland who faces the possibility of six years in prison for sharing her deeply held biblical beliefs on sexuality and marriage says it’s “quite a privilege” to be interrogated for her religious beliefs.
Parliament Member Päivi Räsänen, who was interrogated by police for over 13 hours and questioned on how she interprets the Apostle Paul’s letters in the Bible, will appear in court next Monday over criminal charges for voicing her belief on marriage and sexuality.
She authored a 2004 booklet on sexual ethics describing marriage as between one man and one woman. She also expressed her views on a 2019 radio show and tweeted church leadership on the matter.
“I thought it was quite a privilege to have these kinds of discussions with the police,” Räsänen said in an interview with Alliance Defending Freedom International, a legal nonprofit that specializes in religious freedom cases and is supporting the 62-year-old former interior minister.
“I had many times during these hours the possibility to tell to the police the message of the Gospel, what the Bible teaches about the value of human beings, that all people are created in the image of God and that is why they all are valuable.”
It was like “giving Bible studies to the police,” she remarked.
Räsänen, who worked as a doctor before going into politics and is married to a pastor, said it was absurd and shocking to be interrogated and claims it feels like “Soviet times.”
“I could never have imagined when I worked as the minister of the interior and was in charge of the police that I would be interrogated and asked that kind of questions in a police station,” the lawmaker who led the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015 said.
She said police also asked her if she was ready to “renounce” her writings.
“But I answered that I will stand on what I believe and I will speak about these things and write about these things also in the future because they are a matter of conviction, not only an opinion,” she said.
Räsänen has been charged with three counts of ethnic agitation over statements expressing her beliefs about human sexuality and marriage. Evangelical Lutheran Mission Bishop Juhana Pohjola has been charged with one count of ethnic agitation for publishing Räsänen’s booklet.
Prosecutors in Finland determined that Räsänen’s previous statements disparage and discriminate against LGBT individuals and foment intolerance and defamation.
The mother of five maintains that her expressions are “legal and should not be censored.”
“I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment,” said Räsänen in a statement previously issued by ADF International. “I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone. My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.”
In November, Pohjola warned that his prosecution illustrated that “the Gospel of Christ is at stake” because of postmodernism and “cancel culture.”
He said hate speech laws had been unfairly used against him.
“When postmodernism first swept over Western countries, its basic core was denial of absolute truth. The only truth was that you must allow everyone to have his or her own subjective truth,” Pohjola said. “This hyper-individualism continues, but it has now a different tone. If you are against LGBTQ+ ideology, so-called diversity, equality and inclusiveness, you are not only considered to be old-fashioned … but rejected as morally evil. This is what the prosecutor general understands her duty to be, to protect fragile citizens and victims from the intolerant and hateful Christians.”
Six members of U.S. Congress have condemned the prosecution as “infringements on religious freedom.”
Led by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, the lawmakers urged the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to consider these prosecutions when recommending which countries the U.S. State Department should place on a special watch list of countries that engage in religious freedom violations.
Last May, professors from Ivy League institutions like Harvard University, Yale University and Princeton University were among legal scholars to urge USCIRF to pressure the State Department to sanction Finland’s prosecutor general for prosecuting Pohjola and Räsänen.
“No reasonable balance of the goods of public order, civil equality, and religious liberty can ever support this suppression of the right to believe and express one’s beliefs. The prosecutions are straightforward acts of oppression,” they wrote.