Finnish MP stands trial for hate speech after saying ‘sinful’ gays have ‘developmental disorder’

MP Paivi Rasanen arrives at the Helsinki District Court in Helsinki, Finland on 24 January.

An MP in Finland went to trial on Monday (24 January), accused of hate speech after she said that gay people have a “developmental disorder”.

Päivi Räsänen, a seventh-term member of the Finnish parliament, ex-chair of the Christian Democrats and former interior minister, was charged in April with inciting against a minority group over hateful statements she made about the LGBT+ community.

The charges relate to a 2004 article in which she described being gay as a “developmental disorder” suggested that same-sex relationships would lead to sexual abuse, a 2019 radio interview in which she decried homosexuality as “genetic degeneration”, and tweets describing LGBT+ folk as “a shame and a sin”.

Before going into Helsinki District Court in Helsinki on Monday she insisted, as she has done since the charges were brought, that she has done nothing wrong.

She told Reuters: “I feel great responsibility because I am aware that this case is historic for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

“Obviously, Christians sticking to the Bible’s teachings have the right to participate in public debate.”

Kerttu Tarjamo, director of Seta, an LGBT+ rights group in Finland, said in a statement on social media: “Discrimination against LGBT+ people cannot be justified on the basis of cultural, traditional or religious values… Freedom of speech and religion are fundamental freedoms. Equally important is the right to non-discrimination.

“Freedom of speech and religion does not protect any activity that violates the rights or freedoms of others. These freedoms cannot justify discrimination against any group of people.”

The prosecutor in the case said the MP should be fined for her comments, and that some parts of the 2019 radio show should be removed.

The court will make its decision at a later date.

Päivi Räsänen recently appeared on Finland’s version of The Masked Singer

Bizarrely, MP Päivi Räsänen competed on Masked Singer Suomi, Finland’s version of The Masked Singer, last year.

Her participation drew widespread criticism because of her comments about the LGBT+ community, including from one of the show’s judges.

Judge Christoffer Strandberg said Räsänen has been “most public about her statements regarding sexual minorities” and “doesn’t regret a single deeply offensive, delusional word”.

He added on Instagram: “The situation was personally very strange, as it undeniably felt a little strange to applaud and cheer for someone who has been at war with the rights of people like me for decades.”