14 February 2022
Today, the “Bible Tribunals” continued in Helsinki District Court. On this second day, the prosecutor and the legal advisors of the defendants, Päivi Räsänen and Juhana Pohjola, gave their closing statements. The length of each closing statement was limited to one hour, so this time the court session was clearly shorter than the first.
Compared to the first day of court, there were fewer representatives of the domestic media, but the foreign media was even larger. In fact, there was live international coverage from the yard of the District Court. Representatives of CitizenGO, an international free speech organization, were also present to demonstrate and report on the trial. Before it started, Pastor Andrew Brunson, and his wife Norine, handed Päivi an international address of support containing 14,341 pledges of prayer support. [link]
Once again, there was a demonstration in front of the District Court, showing support not only for Päivi and Juhana, but also for the broad freedom of speech and religion. Juhana and Päivi both greeted the demonstrators by megaphone, thanking them for their support and encouraging them to continue to promote these freedoms.
Growing concern over freedom of speech and religion
State Prosecutor Anu Mantila delivered the prosecutor’s final arguments. Maija Päivinen, the District Prosecutor, did not speak. After the prosecution’s closing statement, there was a short break in the trial. State Prosecutor Anu Mantila was interviewed during the break by MTV3 news. The prosecutor stressed that she still considers Päivi Räsänen to have violated the law by defaming homosexuals.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola commented briefly on the prosecutor’s closing statement:
– “The prosecutor’s primary idea seems to be that, in public, one’s own understanding of the Bible may not be taught, and that freedom of religion does not give one permission to voice aloud a teaching if it is considered to discriminate against a minority group. Therefore, in line with this view, the biblical teachings on marriage, sexuality, sin and grace could not, according to the prosecution, be preached in public. This is an attack on religious freedom.”
The defense denied the charges and criticized the prosecutor.
After the break, it was the turn of the defense lawyers Matti Sankamo (for Dr. Räsänen) and Jyrki Anttinen (for Bishop Pohjola) to make closing statements.
The defense denied the charges and criticized the prosecution for not presenting grounds for their accusations on the first day of the hearing, but rather concentrating on more general argumentation and biblical-theological deliberation. Since the prosecutors had failed to state the evidence for the charges, that left the defendants with little opportunity to defend themselves against those charges.
In addition, there was also a great difference of opinion as to whether a person’s actions could be separated from their identity. To the prosecution’s arguments that actions and identity cannot be separated, the defense replied that this distinction is an essential part of the Christian concept of humanity and the doctrine of atonement and salvation.
The defense pointed out there was an enormous difference between the specific allegations made by the prosecution in the summons and what was actually said in the booklet, radio show and tweet. Jyrki Anttinen argued as follows:
– “This trial is not about Finnish law versus the defendants’ Bible-based “derogatory viewpoints”, but about the prosecutor’s interpretation of the defendants’ texts. The prosecutors’ ideological-theological framework prevents them from assigning importance to the witness of the booklet and to the defendants’ testimony in court establishing the dignity of every human being and the defendants’ repudiation of denigratory speech against homosexuals. The prosecution’s interpretation seeks to silence and criminalize the teaching of sexual ethics by the defendants and in Christendom. The prosecution’s viewpoint is untenable both before Finnish law and the Word of the Bible.”
The court will issue its decision on 30 March 2022.