Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen faces a third trial over posting a Bible verse online. She is shown here with ADF International executive director Paul Coleman. (Photo courtesy of ADF International)

Finnish ‘Bible trial’ case goes to high court as prosecutor appeals acquittal, defense attorneys say

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The Supreme Court of Finland will hear arguments in the case of an evangelical lawmaker and a Lutheran bishop who are accused of hate speech in expressing their biblical views on homosexuality, defense attorneys said.

The high court trial will be the third in which Päivi Räsänen, a former interior minister, and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland have faced the charges. Finland’s top court granted a prosecutor’s request to review the acquittal of two evangelicals, and a trial date has not been scheduled.

Mrs. Räsänen has twice stood trial for her online post questioning the state church’s sponsorship of a 2019 LGBT “Pride” event accompanied by an image of Bible verses from the Book of Romans.

Bishop Pohjola again will be tried with her over the 2004 publication of a pamphlet​ Mrs. Räsänen​ wrote affirming the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.

The District Court of Helsinki in 2022 and the Helsinki Court of Appeal last year acquitted Mrs. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjol, but Finnish law allows a prosecutor to appeal verdicts.

The new hearing raises the stakes for all people in Finland, Mrs. Räsänen said.

“This was not just about my opinions, but about everyone’s freedom of expression. I hope that with the ruling of the Supreme Court, others would not have to undergo the same ordeal,” she said.

“This is a watershed case in the story of Europe’s creeping censorship,” said attorney Paul Coleman of ADF International, which is supporting the pair’s legal defense.

Mr. Coleman said such trials shouldn’t take place in 2024 in a Western democracy. “Throughout the prosecution of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola, we have seen something akin to a ‘heresy’ trial, where Christians are dragged through court for holding beliefs that differ from the approved orthodoxy of the day,” he said.

Mrs. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola have attracted the support of several House Republicans who asked U.S. Ambassador to Finland Douglas Hickey and U.S. Ambassador Rashad Hussein, at-large envoy for international religious freedom, to advocate on their behalf.

“It is abundantly clear — the process is the punishment,” the U.S. lawmakers wrote in August. “The selective targeting of these high-profile individuals is designed to systematically chill others’ speech under the threat of legal harassment and social stigmatism.”

ADF International said Mrs. Räsänen has served as a member of Parliament since 1995. In 2004-2015 she was chair of the Christian Democrats party. She was minister of the interior from 2011 to 2015 and was responsible for church affairs in Finland during that period.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at

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