Bible declared as ‘hate speech’ as two face trial in Helsinki

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Paivi Rasanen/ Facebook

A Finnish Christian democrat parliament member and a Lutheran bishop went on trial on Jan. 25 for crimes against homosexuals as a result of their statements that homosexuality is a developmental disorder and a sin, reports Evangelical Focus.

Remarkably, the Bible seems to be going on trial as well.

Paivi Rasanen, who is a former minister of the interior and a medical doctor along with being MP for a small Christian-democratic party since 1995, described homosexuality as “a developmental disorder” in an online opinion letter published way back in 2004. On Twitter and in 2019, however, she called it “a shame and a sin,” a prosecutor said. Also in 2019, on a program on a Finnish public radio station, Rasanen described homosexuality as a form of “genetic degeneration,” the prosecutor charged.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Is that something a court can or should decide?

She faces three counts of agitation against gay people, who unlike heterosexuals are apparently harmed by the words of other people. Also charged is Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland.

Rasanen denies wrongdoing and calls the charges unfounded. “Christians sticking to the Bible’s teachings have the right to participate in public debate,” she said.

In the unprecedented case, the Helsinki district court must also, incredibly, decide whether citing the Bible can be considered a crime in some cases in Finland because it is “hate speech.” In the trial’s opening arguments Finnish prosecutors described quotations from the Bible as just that.

So why not just ban the Bible, if it is such a dangerous book? Why not burn all copies?

”Finland’s top prosecutor’s office essentially put the Bible on trial, an unprecedented move for a secular court,” said Paul Coleman, a British human rights lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom International, who is helping in the Finns’ defense and was at the Jan. 25 trial.

Prosecutor Anu Mantila had said: “Simply quoting Bible passages is not a crime. Instead, if someone interprets the Bible in a certain way and publishes their own opinions with reference to them, it can be a crime if they offend an individual or a group of people.”

“The prosecutor began the day by trying to explain that this case was not about beliefs and the Bible. She then, and I’m not kidding, she then proceeded to quote Old Testament Bible verses,” Coleman said in a phone interview with The Federalist. “Trial attorneys, Finnish trial attorneys who have been in and out of court every day for years, said they didn’t think the Bible had ever been read out like that in a prosecution.”

It is unprecedented for a Finnish court to weigh whether quoting the Bible is a crime. Human rights observers consider the case an important marker for whether Western governments will increase their persecution of citizens for their speech and beliefs.

Arguments continue in mid-February.

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