Court of Appeal hearing completed


On Thursday, the Court of Appeal completed its examination of the written evidence.During its presentation, the prosecution did not introduce anything substantially new. The prosecution’s arguments are based on “objective interpretations” of what Päivi Räsänen has written and said. The defence, in turn, pointed to evidence to show what Päivi has said.

Friday started with the hearing of defendants. Member of parliament Päivi Räsänen was heard first, followed by bishop Juhana Pohjola. Unlike the district court hearing, this time the prosecution did not insist on questioning about the Bible and theology, but nothing new came up in the hearing. After the lunch break, the parties gave their closing statements.

In his closing statement, the prosecutor repeated her argument that Räsänen’s writings and statements were offensive and degrading or could be perceived as such and that the defendants should have understood this. The defence’s closing statement stressed the right, under the protection of freedom of speech and religion, to write and say things that someone might find offensive. Moral and religious concepts such as sin and shame offend people, that much is clear. However, using them in public discourse is not illegal. The content of the pamphlet, tweet and radio programme does not contain discriminatory content as alleged by the prosecutor. The defence also raised the issue that the charge regarding the pamphlet was retrospective, as it was first published on the internet in 2007 and written on a then current political topic as an educational booklet for parishioners. It is a religious communication by a Christian community to those within its sphere of activity and if the court were to accept the prosecutor’s interpretation, it would lead to the criminalisation of the preaching of the Gospel.

Bishop Juhana Pohjola commented on the trial on Friday after the Court of Appeal’s hearing:

I am grateful for all the support and encouragement that we have received in abundance, even in these days. Although I am confident that we will get an acquittal also in the Court of Appeal, the prosecutor’s accusations were worrying. The prosecutor emphasised how, despite religious freedom, it must be possible to restrict the teaching of the Bible in society if the teaching involves a violation of others’ fundamental rights. According to her interpretation, the teaching booklet “Man and Woman He Created Them” insults and degrades sexual minorities. It is sad that our emphasis on the dignity of every human being and on God’s indivisible love and grace in Christ was not heard. Booklet’s aim, in addition to teaching the creationist concept of family, has been to spread to all of us broken people in many ways, the merciful love of Christ.

The Court of Appeal will give its decision by November.

Sami Niemi

Secretary of the Diocese

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