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Finland’s ex-interior minister goes on trial for anti-LGBT hate speech

Finland’s former interior minister has gone on trial in Helsinki accused of inciting anti-LGBT+ hate speech.

Päivi Räsänen, an MP of the Christian Democrats party, is accused of describing homosexuality as a “disorder of psychosexual development” and labelling homosexuals as “dysfunctional”.

The charges relate to comments posted on Twitter in 2019 in which she criticised the Finnish Lutheran Church for associating itself with a Gay Pride event.

Räsänen accused the church of “elevating shame and sin to a point of pride”, according to the indictment seen by AFP.

The tweet was accompanied by a picture of a Bible passage describing homosexual acts as “shameful” and “unnatural”.

Prosecutors say that her remarks are an “affront to the equality and dignity of homosexuals” and have called for the MP to be fined up to €13,000.

“This statement […] is likely to provoke contempt, intolerance, and even hatred towards homosexuals”, prosecutors added.

Bishop Juhana Pohjola is also charged with incitement to hatred for publishing Räsänen’s remarks on the website of the Luther Foundation of Finland.

The landmark case on hate speech and religious freedoms has been described as “shocking” by Finland’s Christian community.

The former minister has denied the charges and says she acted in the name of “freedom of expression and religion”.

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Räsänen — a doctor by profession — was seen carrying a copy of the Bible in her hand as she arrived at the Helsinki district courtroom on Monday.

“I hope it will be clear today that I do not wish to offend any group of people, but that it is about saving people for eternal life,” she told reporters.

The 62-year-old served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015 and was also chairwoman of the Christian Democrats party. While in office, Räsänen actually passed the current Finnish law on incitement to hatred.

The small opposition Christian Democrats party won just 3.9 per cent of the votes in Finland’s last parliamentary elections in 2019.

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