All charges against two Finnish people for having publicly expressed their Christian beliefs have been dismissed by the Helsinki Court of Appeal.
Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola had both been tried for “hate speech” in August and acquitted, but state prosecutors appealed that judgement.
Räsänen, Finland’s former Interior Minister, was formally charged with “agitation against a minority group” in 2021 under a section of the Finnish criminal code titled “war crimes and crimes against humanity” for sharing her Christian beliefs on marriage and sexual ethics in a 2019 tweet, as well as a 2019 live radio debate and 2004 church pamphlet. Bishop Pohjola was charged for publishing Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet. The case has garnered global media attention as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat posed to free speech.
In the 2019 tweet, to coincide with a ‘Pride’ march in which her Lutheran Church took part, she said ‘How does the doctrinal foundation of the Church fit in with shame and sin being raised as a matter of pride?’
Reacting to the court ruling, she said: “I am deeply relieved. The court has fully endorsed and upheld the decision of the district court, which recognized everyone’s right to free speech.”
In a unanimous ruling that upheld the District Court’s March 2022 unanimous acquittal, the court dismissed the arguments of the state prosecutor.
The Court has ordered the prosecution to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to cover costs incurred by both defendants.