The Trial of the Century

The Trial of the Century October 10, 2023

We have been following the case of the Finnish member of parliament Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola (whose church is in fellowship with the LCMS) who were indicted for the crime of hate speech for articulating what the Bible teaches about homosexuality.  (See this list of posts.)

The good news is that the two were found “not guilty” at their trial.  The bad news is that prosecutors have subjected them to double jeopardy–that is, trying them again despite their having been acquitted, an act of judicial tyranny not allowed by the U.S. Constitution)–by appealing their acquittal!

That second trial is over, and we await the verdict.

In her article for Real Clear Religion, entitled How a Bible Tweet Led to a Battle for Free Speech, Sofia Hörder recounts how it all began with a tweet from Dr. Räsänen that was critical of the state church of Finland for being a co-sponsor of the Gay Pride Parade, accompanied by Bible verses.  Prosecutors then combed through other things that she had written and said in the past, including material from before same-sex marriage was legalized and before the hate crime with which she was charged went into effect.  A key bit of evidence was a pamphlet she had written, for which not only was she prosecuted but so was Bishop Pohjola for publishing it.

Hörder comments,

“If state prosecutors, with all the resources of the state available to them, were to comb through every statement and piece of writing that any of us have ever publicized for something that could be construed as offensive by someone, any of us could find ourselves in Räsänen’s shoes.”

She also points to an article published in European Conservative by Rod Dreher who calls this “the trial of the century.”  He gives some details from the appeal trial:

In her opening statement on Thursday, the Finnish prosecutor said, of a 2004 pamphlet authored by Dr. Räsänen, “The point isn’t whether it is true or not, but that this is insulting.”

Think about that: The point is not whether these words true or not, but that someone’s feelings were hurt by them.

This is the essence of totalitarianism: the demand to control reality. The Finnish state attempts to outlaw not simply expression it does not like, but facts it finds offensive. This little statement by grim-faced prosecutor Anu Mantila is what makes this two-day legal proceeding the Trial of the Century.

It’s like this: If, in a liberal democracy, the state has the power to declare truth subordinate to ideology, then you live under totalitarianism. It might be a soft totalitarianism—fines for thought criminals like Päivi Räsänen, instead of the gulag—but it is totalitarianism nonetheless.

It is telling that Mantila initially asked the appeals court not to let Dr. Räsänen and her co-defendant, Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola, even testify. It was as if she only wanted her allegations heard, with no defense from the accused. The court denied the prosecution’s request, but that it was even made tells you the kind of tyrannical mindset we’re dealing with.

Dreher explains why this is the most important trial of the century:

Again, it might seem overblown to call a two-day appeals hearing the Trial of the Century. It’s not. The ability of people in every society of the West to speak freely about what they believe is true is on trial, either legally or culturally. As old-fashioned liberalism dies, its successor ideology is a militantly illiberal leftism that sees all social relations as nothing but power struggles. It also regards truth as whatever serves to advance the interests of its favored factions. . . .

It must be possible to face and understand that so small (and, in world politics, so unimportant) a phenomenon as the fate of a Finnish pamphleteer and a cleric, on trial for affirming what the Bible says about homosexuality, could become the catalytic agent for far worse persecutions in this century, at the hands of a soft-totalitarian ideology that seemingly overnight has already captured all the institutional and cultural heights in Western democracies.


Photo by Mohamed Hassan form PxHere

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