Court date set for Finnish MP facing jail after tweeting Bible verse

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A Finnish court has announced the date for a hearing to determine whether a former government minister should be jailed after tweeting a Bible verse.

The Helsinki District Court said the case involving Päivi Räsänen, a doctor and mother of five, will be heard on January 24, 2022.

According to ADF International, a Christian legal group that supports her, Ms Räsänen could face a two-year prison sentence or a fine for the tweet, after Finland’s attorney general filed criminal charges against her on April 29.

Ms. Räsänen said: “I await the legal proceedings with a calm mind, convinced that Finland will respect the freedom of expression and religion enshrined in fundamental rights and international conventions.

“I will not back down from my Bible-based conviction and am prepared to defend freedom of speech and religion in any court necessary.

“I cannot accept that expressing religious beliefs can mean imprisonment. I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else is deprived of their right to freedom of religion and expression.

The Attorney General charged Ms Räsänen, who served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, with inciting a minority group, arguing that her remarks were “of a nature to stir up intolerance, contempt and hatred towards homosexuals”.

The 61-year-old MP, who served as chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Party from 2004 to 2015, is an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church. But she questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event in 2019.

On June 17, 2019, she asked in a Twitter post how the sponsorship was compatible with the Bible, linking to a photograph of a Bible passage, Romans 1:24-27, on Instagram. She also posted the text and image on Facebook.

“The goal [of] my tweet was in no way an insult to sexual minorities. My criticism was aimed at the leadership of the Church,” she told the First Things newspaper last year.

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