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Freedom of speech

Finnish Christian MP under incitement investigation for quoting the New Testament

The politician had criticised the Lutheran Church’s participation in the Helsinki LGBT Pride events. “I hope this won't lead to self-censorship among Christians”, she says.

AUTOR 251/Samuli_Siikavirta,5/Evangelical_Focus HELSINKI 02 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 2019 14:58 h
Finnish Christian Democratic MP and former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen. / Facebook P. Räsänen

Finnish Christian Democratic MP, former Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen is being subjected to pretrial investigation by the Finnish Police on account of suspected incitement against sexual and gender minorities.

The matter concerns a critical comment she made on the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s (ELCF) official participation in the Helsinki Pride event earlier in the summer.

On 17 June, Päivi Räsänen posted a photo of Romans 1:24–27 from the New Testament, that describes same-sex relationships as “shameful”. In the attached post, she criticised Finland’s largest church body’s announcement to become an official partner of Helsinki Pride 2019, asking, “How can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?”


The message quoting the Bible posted on 17 June on Facebook by Päivi Räsänen. / Facebook

Räsänen, like some 69% of Finns, is herself a member of the ELCF and married to an ELCF pastor. She is well known (or notorious, depending on the angle) in the country for her defence of traditional Christian views on ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia and marriage that are often more conservative than those of the Lutheran Church’s official leadership.

Officially, the Evangelical Luterhan Church of Finland’s Church Order, ratified by the Finnish Parliament, states that it “confesses that Christian faith which is based on the Holy Word of God, the prophetic and apostolic books of the Old and the New Testament” and the Lutheran confessional writings of the 16th century.

The ELCF is called a “national church” and plays an active role in the public sphere and has the right to collect church tax from its membership that is largely secularised but contains an active minority of conservative 'revival movements'.

Its membership has been on the decline recently by between 1 and 2 per cent points per year.

In 2010, some 80,000 Finns quit the church body, most blaming MP Räsänen's participation and expression of traditional views in a TV debate on gender neutral marriage. Räsänen's minority party, the Christian Democrats, currently hold 5 seats in the 200-seat Finnish Parliament.

Räsänen stands under pretrial investigation with two other Members of Parliament, Social Democrat Hussein Al-Taee and Finns Party Juha Mäenpää, who are suspected of incitement due to comments deemed racist.

On 13 August, Räsänen tweeted, “I am not concerned on my part, as I trust this will not move on to the prosecutor. However, I am concerned if quoting the Bible is considered even ‘slightly’ illegal. I hope this won't lead to self-censorship among Christians. Rom. 1:24–27”.




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