Is it a criminal offence to quote from the Bible? Finland’s former home secretary Päivi Räsänen found herself in hot water when she did just that. ‘How does the doctrinal foundation of the Church fit in with shame and sin being raised as a matter of pride?’ she asked. Räsänen’s objection – which came after the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland partnered with a Helsinki Pride festival in 2019 – led to her being charged with incitement against a minority group. Finally this week, after a three-year legal battle, Räsänen has been cleared. Her ordeal offers a troubling case study of the way in which ‘hate speech’ legislation is being used as a modern blasphemy law.
In a tweet addressed to the leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (of which she is an active member), Räsänen included a passage from Romans (1:24-27) saying:
‘Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.’