Good News for Free Speech

Finland Attempts to Go Full Orwell and Fails

Last year, a state prosecutor in Finland attempted to condemn speech deemed to run counter to Finland’s established pro-LGBT policies by accusing a Lutheran bishop and a member of parliament of inciting “ethnic agitation” under the state’s hate speech law. Though the investigating police had found no cause for bringing charges, the state prosecutor reversed that decision. The reversal suggests a political motivation aimed at limiting not only freedom of speech but also freedom of religion. Apparently, the love of truth must be a kind of hate.

On January 24, 2022, Juhana Pohjola and Paivi Rasanen were brought to trial. The Rev. Dr. Pohjola was consecrated bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland in August 2021. Paivi Rasanen, a physician and member of the Finnish Parliament, served as chair of the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015 and as Minister of the Interior from 2011 to 2015. In 2004, Pohjola published Rasanen’s book supporting the traditional Christian views that sex is reserved for marriage and that marriage is a commitment between one man and one woman. Then on Twitter in 2017, Rasanen challenged the state church’s sanctioning of an LGBT demonstration and posted Romans 1:24-27 on Instagram. This is the Scripture the prosecutor regarded as hate.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

On March 30, the court in a unanimous ruling dismissed the charges of “hate speech” against both Pohjola and Rasanen, ruling that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” As a consequence, the court ordered the prosecution to pay court costs of 60,000 euros (almost $67,000). Though Finland has criminalized certain forms of speech as “hate speech” (as have most European countries), the Finnish court seems to have drawn a line as to how far that law may go. The court resisted calling the word of God – whom the apostle John declared to be love – “hate speech.”

Attempts to legislate speech arose after World War II as European governments moved to counter anti-Semitism and rhetoric that fueled it. In recent years, the target of such laws has shifted toward censoring opinions, or, increasingly facts, that run counter to Woke ideology. Targeted opinions include favoring border security, regulated immigration, voter ID laws, and a host of others. Targeted facts include the biological differences between men and women, the very limited efficacy of masks, and even two plus two equals four. Insistence on banning any speech other than that of the Woke has given rise to cancel culture which is, in fact, a culture of hate. Though championed by social justice warriors, hate speech laws have become all about their ideology, not justice - more about hate than love.

Until last year, however, no one had so publicly attacked Christianity as to declare Scripture hate speech. As detailed in a Hudson Institute article, the Finnish hate speech law, like most such laws in Europe, is so indistinctly worded as to permit broad application with no evidence of any harm. The Finnish prosecutor certainly attempted to stretch the law to its fullest extent. Though many feared the decision might go the other way, the court did dismiss the case.

Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the First Amendment admits no “hate speech” exception to the right of free speech. To guarantee that decision, all of us must not allow Woke hatred to supplant Christian love.

is a retired secondary teacher of English and philosophy. For forty years he challenged students to dive deep into the classics of the Western canon, to think and write analytically, and to find the cultural constants reflected throughout that literature, art, and thought.

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