by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Two Christian leaders in Finland stood trial in Helsinki on Jan. 24 for publicly stating the Bible’s teachings on sex and marriage. Longtime Member of Parliament Paivi Rasanen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola defended in court their decision to write and publish, respectively, a pamphlet explaining Christian teachings about sex and marriage.
In the trial’s opening arguments, which will resume on Feb. 14, Finnish prosecutors described quotations from the Bible as “hate speech.” Finland’s top prosecutor’s office essentially put the Bible on trial, an unprecedented move for a secular court, said Paul Coleman, a human rights lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom International who is assisting in the Finns’ legal defense and was present during Monday’s trial.
“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 after the trial concluded for the day. “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.”
Never before has a Finnish court had to decide whether quoting the Bible is a crime. Human rights observers consider this case an important marker for whether Western governments’ persecution of citizens for their speech and beliefs increases.
Coleman said “it was very surreal” to watch Rasanen, a medical doctor and pastor’s wife, and Pohjola … be grilled by secular prosecutors about details of Christian theology in a secular court. The two Christians had the opportunity to essentially preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in court.