HELSINKI — A Finnish court on Wednesday acquitted a Christian Democrat lawmaker and former interior minister of alleged incitement against gay people, in a case considered an important precedent on the limits of freedom of speech in the Nordic country.
The Helsinki District Court said in its ruling that while some of the public statements by Paivi Rasanen, former leader of the small Christian Democratic Party, have been offensive to homosexuals they didn’t constitute hate speech and didn’t fall outside freedom of speech laws.
“I’m thankful to God and all my supporters,” Rasanen told reporters after the verdict, adding she was “very happy and relieved” over the decision. She said she didn’t mean to insult anyone with her statements as “I know homosexuals and they are just as valuable as I am.”
In a trial that ended in February, Rasanen, a doctor well-known in Finland for her religious convictions and views against abortion and same-sex marriage, faced three separate counts of incitement against a minority group.
The charges were based on some of Rasanen’s writings and media appearances between 2004-2019, in which prosecutors alleged that she slandered gay people. Rasanen, who often has cited the Bible to back up her views, denied all the charges.
The Finnish court stated that the freedom of religion and freedom of speech are not unrestricted in nature. However, limiting them would require a compelling social reason, it said, adding that ensuring the dignity and equality of persons belonging to sexual minorities can be such a reason in some cases.
The case has attracted attention in some European countries, like Hungary, and in the United States where some politicians, among others Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, and conservative Christian groups have pledged their support to Rasanen.
Finnish state prosecutors said they would likely appeal the court’s decision.