HELSINKI — A lawmaker and pastor’s wife in Finland who was already being probed by police over a social media post in which she questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s partnership with a Helsinki Pride event, as well as a Bible-based booklet that she wrote 16 years ago on homosexuality, is now also facing two new investigations over comments she made to the media about her views on same-sex relationships.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF), Päivi Räsänen was informed on March 5 that she is now facing questioning for an interview that she gave in 2018 to the television broadcast “Maria Veitola, Overnight Visit,” in which a reporter spent the night at her house and asked about her personal life, including her religious views.
She is also under investigation for remarks made on a radio broadcast in December entitled, “What Would Jesus Think About Homosexuals?”
As previously reported, Räsänen’s husband is a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, which is the largest denomination in the country, having an estimated three million members. Räsänen is a member of the Christian Democrat Party (which differs from the Democratic Party in the United States as it is conservative in nature) and was Finland’s minister of the interior from 2011-2015.
The Christian parliamentarian is known for defending life and marriage, standing against abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality. She had written a letter to the Evangelical Lutheran Church last year expressing her disappointment in their decision to back Helsinki’s same-sex pride event.
“The pride event’s ideological goal is to take pride in the type of relations that are described as being against God’s will,” Räsänen wrote, according to Finland broadcasting outlet YLE. “Homosexual relationships, like those relationships outside of marriage, are described in the Bible as sinful and shameful.”
At least 500 members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland dropped their affiliation over the matter.
In June, Räsänen also tweeted her views about the unscriptural advocacy.
“How can the Church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride? #LGBT #HelsinkiPride2019 #Romans 1:24-27,” she wrote, while sharing a photograph of the biblical text, as it directly addresses homosexuality.
However, in September, it was announced that Räsänen had been placed under government investigation for her post, being accused of “incitement against sexual and gender minorities.”
According to Evangelical Focus, the pastor’s wife and lawmaker was questioned by authorities for approximately four hours on Nov. 1, as she told the outlet that “the police let me understand that they shall not close the case.”
That same month, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Finland issued a press release advising of a second investigation, this time surrounding Räsänen’s 2004 publication “Male and Female He Created Them.” It stated that while the booklet — which remains online — “takes a stand on ecclesiastical policy, social policy, sexuality and marriage in regard to the Bible and its interpretation,” Prosecutor Raija Toiviainen believes the text potentially constitutes a hate crime.
“Previously, the police concluded that there was no need for a preliminary investigation, as there was no reason to believe that a crime had been committed,” Toiviainen’s office said in a statement. “The prosecutor general, who was requested to re-evaluate this matter, in assessing the balance between the basic and human rights of the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion and non-discrimination, reached a different conclusion than did the police.”
“According to the prosecutor general, there is reason to believe that because of the defamation of homosexuals by the violation of their human dignity, Ms. Räsänen is guilty of incitement to hatred against a group,” it advised. “Therefore, there will be a preliminary investigation in this matter.”
The Lutheran leader who published Räsänen’s writings online was also placed under investigation because of his involvement in the booklet’s distribution and for keeping the content available to the public. Juhana Pohjola, the dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, is being accused of “ethnic intimidation.” He was questioned last month for five hours.
“Love for our fellow human beings should belong to all of our relationships, both among the opposite and the same sexes. Men can love men and women can love women. [But] in a homosexual relationship or in a marriage, the issue at stake is not just about the love for our neighbor but also about a sexual relationship,” the publication reads in part. “In a healthy human life, sex is not a part of just any human relationship. Love is not to be equated to falling in love.”
“There are passages in both the Old and New Testaments that deal with the practice of homosexuality. In each passage it is clearly against the will of God,” it also outlines. “In none of His speeches did Jesus nullify the Old Testament Law, not in regard to the practice of homosexuality either. In questions regarding sexuality, for example, in the encounter between Jesus and the woman who was caught committing adultery (John 8), He did not nullify the Law concerning adultery (‘Go now and leave your life of sin’).”
Now, Räsänen faces two additional probes for her remarks to the media about homosexuality. The lawmaker views the various investigations as censorship of her speech.
“This kind of police investigation tends to have a chilling effect in our society so that some people are afraid to use their freedoms to teach what the Bible says or practice their faith,” she said in a video produced by ADF.
“A major threat for freedom of religion and free speech is that we don’t make use of these rights,” she also remarked in a statement. “I hope these criminal investigations won’t lead to self-censorship among Christians. I am going to use my rights regardless of the police investigation. I encourage others to do the same.”