Monday, December 11, 2023

The Bible On Trial

There is a court case in Finland that is as bizarre as it is disturbing. When I first learned about this case last year I rechecked my calendar to make sure it was 2022. Now it’s 2023 and I still can’t believe that this is actually happening.

Paivi Rasanen has been a member of the Finnish Parliament since 1995. She holds the degree of Licentiate of Medicine and her civilian profession is a medical doctor. From 2004 to 2015, she was the chair of the Finnish Christian Democrats. From June 2011 to May 2015, she held the office of the Minister of the Interior of Finland. As the Minister of the Interior, she was responsible for internal security and migration, church affairs at the Ministry of Education and Culture and matters relating to customs in the Ministry of Finance.

In June of 2019 Rasanen posted a tweet addressing a question to the leadership of her church that had signed up to support the Helsinki Pride Parade. The main content of the post was a screenshot of verses 24-27 from the book of Romans chapter 1 from the New Testament.

Following a preliminary investigation launched because of a citizen’s complaint, a total of five criminal complaints were filed. On 22 April 2021, the Prosecutor General brought three separate charges against Rasanen for the tweet, a pamphlet she had written in 2004, titled “Male and Female He Created Them” and a humorous radio interview hosted by Ruben Stiller. The police did not consider any crime to have been committed in these two latter cases, but the Prosecutor General nevertheless ordered preliminary investigations to be carried out. Bishop Juhana Pohjola, the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, was also charged with being responsible for publishing and making the pamphlet available on the internet.

So in 2022, Rasanen was suspected of “ethnic agitation” against a group because of a tweet, a pamphlet published 17 years ago, and statements she made on a talk show. The police have wasted hours questioning Rasanen and many more investigating her reports and written statements. The Public Prosecutor’s Office investigated the case for over six months before reaching a decision.

This outrageous behavior by a so-called democratic government is inexcusable. A distinguished member of their own Parliament is harassed and dragged through the court system over the tweet of a Bible verse, a pamphlet that she wrote 17 years ago and a radio interview.

On March 30th of last year, the Helinski District Court acquitted both Rasanen and Bishop Pohjola, of all three charges, but the nightmare wasn’t over. Unbelievably, the lead prosecutor not only appealed the decision, but basically demanded that the appeals court deliver a favorable decision.

At the appeals court on August 31st, the prosecutor stated:

“The authors of the Bible are not indicted but those who interpret the Bible literally are. You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.”

Criminal? Really, Criminal?  I’d love to know what planet the prosecution is from. This is a case of an overzealous prosecution team motivated by a liberal political agenda. Right and wrong has NOTHING to do with their pursuit of this case.

Paul Coleman is the executive director of ADF International, which is backing Räsänen’s defense. He correctly summed up the case against Rasanen like this:

“The gist of the State prosecutor’s examination of Päivi was Would she recant her beliefs? The answer was no, … she will not deny the teachings of her faith. Dragging an individual through a grueling criminal trial simply for expressing their religious beliefs is not a marker of democracy and “progress.”

The appeal took place last week and a decision will be made by November 30th. In a press conference after the two-day appeal trial Rasanen said:

“It has been a long two days at the court of appeals. When I was voted into Parliament in 1995, I expected that I would face many challenges. But I never would imagine that I would face a criminal trial for posting a Bible verse and sharing my Christian convictions online.”

Sixteen members of Congress also sent a letter that called on the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain and U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Douglas Hickey, to stand against what they called the “egregious and harassing” by Finnish authorities of a Christian member of their parliament.

The letter went on to say that the court case:

“is dead set on weaponizing the power of Finland’s legal system to silence not just a member of parliament, … but millions of Finnish Christians who dare to exercise their natural rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion in the public square.”

This case has placed not just Rasanen, but Christianity in the crosshairs. The idea that it’s criminal to post a Bible verse on the internet is in itself criminal in its intent. The appeal is politically motivated and should have been denied, and the fact that there was an additional two days of litigation is pure nonsense. Also, how could it possibly take until November 30th to recognize the stupidity of this farce.

In years past you could honestly say that this could never happen in the U.S., but if our country’s idea of Justice is jailing those involved on January 6th and allowing Hunter and the “Big Guy” to walk free, maybe we should all brush up on our Finnish.