Supreme Court of Finland grants leave to appeal to the Prosecutor General


Bishop Juhana Pohjola and Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen entering Court of Appeal

The Supreme Court of Finland has today, 19 April 2024, granted the Prosecutor General’s Office leave to appeal in the criminal case of incitement against an ethnic group, the case commonly termed the “Bible trials”. This case concerns a pamphlet written by Päivi Räsänen and published by the Luther Foundation Finland entitled “Male and Female He created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity” from 2004 and Päivi Räsänen’s Tweet about the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s participation in the Pride event of 2019. The accused are Päivi Räsänen, Member of Parliament, MD, and the Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. It is further demanded that the Luther Foundation Finland pay a corporate fine for the publication of the pamphlet. The Prosecutor General left off the portion of the appeal to the Supreme Court concerning Ruben Stiller’s radio programme.

Bishop Juhana Pohjola comments

The Supreme Court’s decision to grant leave to appeal did not surprise me, although I had hoped that the clear acquittals of both the District and Appeal Courts would have been enough to end a long and expensive legal process. For my part, I am of course prepared to continue the fight for freedom of expression and religion before the Supreme Court and, if necessary, subsequently before the European Court of Human Rights.

I am confident that the Supreme Court will also deliver an acquittal, which, as a precedent, may in future help to ensure that no one else in a State under the rule of law has to go through such an incomprehensible and cumbersome process. Everyone has the right to hear and to know for certain that the teaching about marriage between a man and a woman, about the Christian concept of humanity, and about sexual ethics based on the Bible and natural law is not hate speech or incitement against a group of people, even if some might find such offensive. Neither hatred nor discrimination can guide a Christian, but only Christ’s love and respect for every human being.

I want to thank you for all your support, encouragement and intercession. We can rest as we go forwards in God’s good grace and providence!

Jyrki Anttinen, legal adviser to the Luther Foundation Finland and Bishop Juhana Pohjola, states on the upcoming hearing

Today, as trial counsel for both Juhana Pohjola and the Luther Foundation Finland, I received requests from the Supreme Court for responses to the Prosecutor General’s appeal. Not surprisingly, this leave to appeal was granted on the question of “whether the defendants had committed incitement against an ethnic group”.

We will provide written answers within about a month. The process will therefore be in writing as there is surely no need for an oral hearing. Last year, the average time taken to deal with preliminary rulings in the Court was 16½ months.

We continue to proceed with confidence, as the Supreme Court has been strict in upholding the principles of legality of the criminal law, which is the matter now being challenged.

What is this about?

The prosecution’s view is that Päivi Räsänen’s writing “Male and Female He created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity”, the tweet about the Pride parade and the discussion on Ruben Stiller’s radio show constitute incitement against a group of people.

So far:

  • The police concluded in their investigation that the pamphlet does not violate the law.
  • Helsinki District Court dismissed the charge.
  • Helsinki Appeal Court upheld the decision of the District Court.
  • The Prosecutor General applied for leave to appeal to the Finnish Supreme Court regarding the pamphlet and the tweet. The Court of Appeal’s decision on the radio programme was therefore upheld.

The charges have attracted national and international attention, as they have been seen as a threat to freedom of expression and religion. The legality of the charges has also been questioned. After the District Court’s decision, Yleisradio [Finnish Broadcasting Corporation] published a news item: “The prosecutor placed words in Päivi Räsänen’s mouth that she had not uttered – Yle went through the erroneous allegations”[news article in Finnish. Translation: pdf]. 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 be interpreted objectively: “Prosecutor denies misrepresenting Päivi Räsänen’s statements – slams acquittal and explains differences in interpretation with a horse analogy” [News article in Finnish. Translation: pdf].

Sami Niemi

Secretary of the Diocese

Hämeenlinna ,