A Feisty Finn Wins on Faith and Free Speech

Posted on Sun 04/03/2022 by

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Tweeting Bible verses on the scriptural view of sex and marriage is officially not hate speech in Finland. ~  

Former MP Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola were facing trial for three counts of “hate speech.” This so-called hate speech was the publishing of a pamphlet on the biblical view of marriage and a social media post with a quotation from Romans 1:24-27 attempting to call out the Finnish state church leaders who were sponsoring the Helsinki LGBT parade.

The fact that Räsänen was trying to rebuke the church leaders is important. A lot of the media tried to construe it as an attack on the LGBTQ+ community in Finland. It puts the “hate speech” accusation in a slightly different light.

The Finnish court ruled that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.”

How had Finland and its laws against hate speech so strayed from the path of freedom of expressions and religion that this was even brought before a court of law? Lorcán Price, one of the barristers on Räsänen and Pohjola’s team, gives the historical setup. It all can be traced back to the 1960s. This is when international law was trying to refine regulations on freedom of expression by putting in limitations on speech that ostensibly foment hate.

These hate speech restrictions have never been tested to this extreme. The prosecutor’s main argument for the pamphlet and the social media posts being classified as hate speech is that Räsänen and Pohjola’s biblical views on marriage, family, and sexuality were politically incorrect; to proclaim these views publicly supposedly incites hatred. According to The Federalist’s Joy Pullman, “Räsänen noted that when she was Finland’s interior minister, Communist Chinese officials expressed to her this same stance toward religious freedom and free speech.”

She is exactly correct. Räsänen and Pohjola fearlessly stood their ground and defended their faith. The most glorifying part of the whole ordeal was that they had a high-profile opportunity to share the Gospel. Räsänen particularly directs her message of hope to the LGBTQ+ community that may have been watching this trial: “The prosecutor tries to deny the core message the Bible, the teaching of law and gospel: God has created all human beings in his own image and we all have equal value, but we also are all sinners. God is the one who decides what thing is wrong. And God so loved all people that He gave His only Son to die on the cross to suffer the punishment that we all deserved because of our sins.”

Räsänen also had this to say: “Only people who recognize their sins need Jesus, [and] the forgiveness of our sins. This is why we also must have the courage to call homosexual relations sinful.”

This stance on marriage and sexuality is increasingly considered radical (i.e. hateful). Many Christian churches will focus on Christ’s love when ministering to the LGBTQ+ community, but they won’t call out the sin from which Jesus died to save them.

Becket Cook, author of A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption, was living a homosexual lifestyle but was called out of it by Christ. He recounts in his testimony that at the very lowest point in his life, he and his best friend were in a coffee shop and noticed Christians there in Los Angeles. (That doesn’t happen often.) He asked them about their belief and they shared the Gospel. He then asked the million-dollar question: What does God say about homosexuality? They told him the truth — that homosexuality is a sin. It was this honest answer that struck his heart and opened the door for Becket to pursue Christ and eventually become a Christian. To God be the Glory!

This case in Finland was also watched with great trepidation by the international religious community. Even some U.S. senators were worried this would result in a “secular blasphemy law” that could eventually be a model for religious persecution in the States. Bishop Pohjola impressed bad ramifications for Christians, saying: “If we had lost the case, there would be no way that we could publicly proclaim the law of God and the forgiving gospel of Jesus Christ. That would have radically changed the whole atmosphere in our church body as Christians in Finland.” (Though they would still proclaim the Gospel and probably face jail time should that come to pass.)

There is still a chance that this case could be appealed. Räsänen and Pohjola are ready for such a development and will unabashedly proclaim the Gospel each step of the way. It’s amazing how God has used this Lutheran bishop and Finnish grandmother in mighty ways.

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