Former Finnish Interior Minister Räsänen Acquitted Of “Hate Speech” For Quoting Bible—Victory Against New Post-Soviet “Finlandization”?
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I have lived in Finland for a very long time. Compared to my native England, it is safe, efficient, well-organized, and, on most measures, simply a better place to be and to bring up children. But as I explored in my book The Silent Rape Epidemic: How the Finns Were Groomed to Love Their Abusers, two aspects of Finnish society trouble me: intense social conformity and a relative lack of interest in freedom of speech. Both came into play in the recently-settled Hate Speech case—or almost settled—against former Interior Minister Dr. Päivi Räsänen, former leader of the evangelical Christian Democrat Party. She has been found Not Guilty of “insulting” homosexuals, and the verdict was recently affirmed on appeal.

But prosecutor Anu Mantila says she will appeal the verdict to Finland’s Supreme Court.

The trouble began for Räsänan in 2019, when she naively assumed that simply repeating what the Bible says about homosexual behavior could not possibly be a crime. Räsänen criticized the Finnish Lutheran Church for being a “partner organization” in that year’s “Helsinki Pride,” adding that “sin and shame” should not be a source of “pride.” Räsänen also posted an image of Bible verses that, from her perspective, encapsulate the traditional Christian view on homosexuality. These included “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. That is detestable” (Leviticus  18: 22) and Romans 1:24-27, which describes homosexuality as “shameful.” These verses were included in her 2004 pamphlet Male And Female He Created Them [Päivi Räsänen, PDF]. She also said “insulting” things on a radio talk show.

Räsänen found herself prosecuted for “Hate Speech”—which obviously suggests that quoting the Bible in Finland is a crime if the quote offends a fringe minority. The case was so extraordinary that it drew international attention, and of course was particularly shocking to Americans who still, by and large, value free speech [Free Speech On Trial, Alliance Defending Freedom International].

In March 2022, the case finally came to trial at the Helsinki District Court. In acquitting her, the judges accepted that Räsänen’s remarks could have been “partly offensive” to homosexuals, but they did not constitute “Hate Speech.” They weren’t sufficiently insulting and, crucially, she did not intend to insult them.

In a country which valued free speech, this would surely be the end of the matter. But in Finland, unlike in common law jurisdictions like the U.S., being found “not guilty” is not the end of the matter, even if no new evidence against the defendant has been found. This means that a tyrannical prosecutor can subject a defendant to unremitting “lawfare,” and keep him in court until he loses or is broke.

So the prosecutor ran to the Helsinki Court of Appeal in August. Last week, more than four years after Räsänen published her remarks, this court unanimously upheld the “not guilty” verdict.

Leaving the court, Räsänen told reporters that she hopes the decision sets a precedent. “I did not doubt for a moment that I was guilty of anything illegal in my writings or statements,” Räsänen said:

The teachings of the Bible that I have presented are legal. I think that this is not just about my opinions, but about the right of thousands and thousands of other Christians to express their convictions.

She also said prosecutors portrayed her unfairly because she had also written that “all people are equal” [Päivi Räsäsen syytteet kiihottamisesta kansanryhmää vastaan kaatuivat taas (“Päivi Räsänen’s charges of incitement against a people’s group were dropped again—Räsänen hopes that the Court of Appeal’s decision will set a precedent”) [Google Translate], by Päivi Happonen and Antte Pilke, YLE, November 14, 2023].

The case is unusual, however, in one important regard. The prosecutor’s summary of what Räsänen said, specifically in the radio interview, was inaccurate.

Finland’s state broadcaster, YLE, looked at Räsänen’s remarks and showed that she did not, for example, say that homosexuals were a “genetic degeneration,” although she did discuss genetic inheritance. And she did not claim that homosexuals were not “God’s creation,” as the prosecutor alleged:

The district court considers that Räsänen’s religious view of the sinfulness of homosexual acts does not mean the same as the prosecution’s claim that homosexuals are not created by God like heterosexuals. Räsänen has also stated in the program that everyone is equally sinful before God and that she would not like to limit the discussion of sin to sexuality.

Syyttäjä laittoi Päivi Räsäsen suuhun sanoja, joita tämä ei ollut lausunut (“The prosecutor put words in Päivi Räsänen’s mouth that she had not uttered—Yle reviewed the erroneous claims”), by Jesse Mäntysalo, YLE, November 14, 2023

Indeed, YLE seems to have directly accused the prosecutor of misrepresenting if not lying about Räsänen remarks.

Nevertheless, after the verdict, the prosecutor told YLE that she is strongly considering an appeal to Finland’s Supreme Court.

“We did not get a thorough opinion from the court of appeal on where the line is drawn between punishable and non-punishable expression when it comes to less serious, but not directly inciting hate and violence, offensive speech,” she said, insisting that it could be illegal to quote the Bible if the intention is to offend a protected minority [Syyttäjä Ylelle: Harkitsen vakavasti valitusluvan hakemista korkeimmasta oikeudesta (“Prosecutor Yelle: I am seriously considering applying for leave to appeal from the Supreme Court—Räsänen’s charges in the Nuri Court of Appeal”) [Google Translate], by Päivi Happonen, YLE, November 14, 2023].

This persecution of Räsänen reveals the very serious problem with Hate Speech laws.

A law that makes it a crime to “insult” homosexuals or any minority will chill freedom of speech. Whether speech is “offensive” is mostly subjective. Defining the line between a remark’s being acceptably offensive and appallingly offensive or even a crime is almost impossible. The emotionally mature—meaning adults—must accept that freedom of speech requires accepting that others have the right to make offensive remarks, just as the offended have the right to complain, or retaliate with offensive remarks. One might find that mindset uncomfortable, but criminalizing speech will inevitably suppress rigorous debate for fear of offending someone.

Finland’s social conformity is nothing new. During the Cold War, the country self-censored to avoid offending or provoking the Soviet Union. Known as “Finlandization,” this policy subjected Finns to social and even legal pressure to keep their mouths shut, and not to criticize the official line regarding their dangerous neighbor. Some books and films were even banned.

Now, in in the new Dawn of Freedom after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the official line has become that “protected groups” cannot be offended—and it’s enshrined in Finnish law. People must not question the Zeitgeist.

Räsänen’s legal future remains uncertain because this prosecutor just won’t quit. But the negative reaction to this real-life Inspector Javert, even from the state broadcaster, suggests that she has gone too far.

This may be a minor victory for freedom of speech. Maybe the Finns are awakening to the new “Finlandization” of their society.

Edward Dutton (email him | Tweet him) is Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Asbiro University, Łódź, Poland.  You can see him on his Jolly Heretic video channels on YouTube and Bitchute. His books are available on his home page here.


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