Helsinki District Court issued a decision on 30 March 2022 at 1:00pm regarding the charges of incitement against a group of people, “hate speech”, brought against Päivi Räsänen, Member of Parliament, and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. The three-judge panel unanimously delivered a judgment of acquittal and dismissed all charges.
– “The District Court’s decision was to be expected. This is not only a victory for us, but for freedom of speech and religion in Finland and beyond. In seeking to criminalize Christian teachings on sexuality, the prosecution cast a shadow of fear over society. It was important to receive a strong signal from the District Court defending our fundamental rights as citizens and Christians. It was essential we heard from the court that we have not committed a crime of incitement, because we have always denounced defamatory speech. On the contrary, we have taught the concept of humanity and marriage in accord with natural law and the Bible. This is what we have taught and will always preach as a Church, both in private and in public. While I rejoice over this decision, I nonetheless find it problematic that in its deliberations the District Court considered Päivi Räsänen’s booklet “Male and female He created them” to contain offensive speech, even though it does not consider that Räsänen’s writing was denigrative as outlined in the intentions of the Criminal Code,” Pohjola commented on the decision.
Helsinki District Court heard the prosecution’s case against Dr. Räsänen and the Rev. Dr. Pohjola in two hearings, 24 January and 14 February 2022. Bishop Pohjola was charged as editor-in-chief responsible for the publication and distribution of the booklet Räsänen wrote “Male and female He created them”. According to the prosecutor, the pamphlet denigrated and defamed homosexuals. The prosecutor had demanded 60 day-fines for Pohjola and a EUR 10,000 corporate fine for Luther Foundation Finland.
Bishop Pohjola’s lawyer Jyrki Anttinen commented on the District Court’s decision:
– “The case was decided on the basis of an assessment of the evidence, taking into account the background and context of the writing. The booklet was not written to insult or defame, but to defend a religious view of marriage. The District Court held that the quotations were not in themselves disputed, but that they could not, in a broad sense, be interpreted to the detriment of Päivi Räsänen.
The District Court held that passages from the writing could be considered offensive, but were not of such severity as to violate the equality or dignity of homosexuals or to arouse contempt or hatred. Thus, Päivi Räsänen’s writing did not insult homosexuals and Juhana Pohjola was not guilty of criminal conduct. The claim for punishment against the Luther Foundation must also be dismissed.
The rationale in the District Court’s decision must be examined in more detail, but in principle I do not entirely agree with the District Court on the general offensiveness of the passages in the writings in the indictment.”
The Bible trials have received a lot of attention both at home and abroad. There have been many expressions of support, both privately and publicly, throughout the process.
– “I would like to thank all of those who have provided support and encouragement during this long process. There has been a tremendous outpouring of intercession from all around the world. Ultimately, this a spiritual battle and a matter concerning the Gospel of Christ,” continued Pohjola.
The prosecutor has the possibility to appeal the decision to the Appellate Court, so the decision of the District Court is not yet final.