The Helsinki Court of Appeal today 14 November 23 issued a verdict in the case known as the “Bible trials”, in which Päivi Räsänen, Member of Parliament, Bishop Juhana Pohjola, the Finnish Luther Foundation and the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (Yleisradio) were accused of incitement against a group of people. Although there was earlier a thorough acquittal by the Helsinki District Court, State Prosecutor Anu Mantila appealed that verdict. In its decision, the Court of Appeal decided to uphold the District Court’s acquittal as it stood, and mainly added a few paragraphs to the assessment of the intentionality of the act.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola commented on the decision.
– I am satisfied with the Court of Appeal’s acquittal. This was a victory not only for Päivi Räsänen, MP, and me, but for all Finns, because the issue of freedom of speech and religion is a common cause for all of us, despite our differences of opinion. At the same time, it must at this stage be stated that this process, which has lasted for more than four years, has certainly had a deterrent effect in restricting free discussion. How many people are truly afraid to publicly express a stance defending the concept of man and of marriage in accord with natural law and the Christian faith if they risk being accused of hate speech or even facing a ponderous legal process?
– I am grateful for all the support and prayer, both at home and abroad. I see that in the midst of all of this, God is good. We have been able to hold forth the central teachings of the Bible about the good gifts of creation, the seriousness of sin and the grace of Christ Jesus. While the basic teachings of Christianity are increasingly challenged and opposed in our time, we need not cower in fear and remain silent. We can continue to teach both the inalienable human dignity of every human being as God’s creation and the marital and familial life that God intended, as well as the new life brought by Christ in the midst of our human brokenness.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola and Jyrki Anttinen, legal adviser to the Luther Foundation Finland, also remarked on the decision.
– In its reasoning, the Court of Appeal drew attention to the intentionality of the incitement offence as the prosecutors had relied on it in support of their appeal. However, the Court of Appeal held – as did the District Court – that the statements in the indictments did not meet the criteria of Chapter 11, Section 10 of the Criminal Code, i.e. they were not unlawful.
The prosecution has until 15 January 2024 to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Finland.
The prosecution’s case revolves around the prosecutor’s view that Päivi Räsänen’s booklet Male and Female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity, a tweet about a Pride parade and a discussion on Ruben Stiller’s radio programme constitute incitement against an ethnic group. To date, the police concluded in a preliminary investigation that the pamphlet did not violate the law, and more recently the District Court came to the same conclusion. The Helsinki Court of Appeal dealt with the case, commonly referred to as the “Bible trials”, at the turn of August and September. For further news on the hearing, see our website:
These charges have attracted national and international attention as they have been evaluated as endangering freedom of expression and religion. The legality of the charges has also been questioned. After the District Court’s decision, the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (Yleisradio) published a news item: “The prosecutor put words into Päivi Räsänen’s mouth that she had not uttered – Yle goes through the erroneous allegations”. In a later Yle news item, State Prosecutor Anu Mantila expressed her dissatisfaction with the verdict and said that it was the prosecutor’s duty to explain the meaning of Päivi Räsänen’s statements, i.e. how the statements should actually be interpreted objectively. The Prosecutor disputed having presented incorrect information on Päivi Räsänen’s statements – then proceeded to deprecate the acquittal and to explain the differences in interpretation with an analogy involving horses.