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We move to a different topic for a moment, as Finnish politician Päivi Räsänen has been acquitted of prosecution following her statements surrounding homosexuality. We are now in contact with Henk Jan van Schothorst of Christian Council International. He has been in personal contact with Ms. Räsänen recently. Good evening Mr. van Schothorst.
Good evening Mr. Pasterkamp.
Nice to have you associated with us. What was Mrs. Räsänen's first reaction when she heard the verdict?
Yes, extremely relieved and grateful for this ruling actually, which is historic when it comes to freedom of religion and expression, in Finland at least. And where for the first time the court had to take a position on whether or not it is legal to quote the Bible and agree with it. The judges had to weigh relationships between fundamental rights and criminal law and the interrelationship between different fundamental freedoms, and it ended well, but alarmingly so. And also, a battle is won, the war continues. 7 days are available to appeal, where it could end up at Court of Appeals and possibly the European Court of Human Rights.
Yes, you say: a historic ruling. Why is it historic, why is this so important?
Well, because those fundamental rights and the interrelationship between them have been weighed up actually and not only allowed to quote the Bible, but also to believe in it and to say so freely. Surely that is very fundamental, not only for Finland, but actually for the whole world. We have also seen it here in the case of Pastor Kort.
Still, if you read the judgment, the judge says that Mrs. Räsänen's statements are offensive, but that she will not be prosecuted for them.
Yes, that also has to do with whether there is any sowing of hatred from your statements. So the context is very important and she expressed her religious views and although that could be offensive, it's not punishable.
Yes and therefore not prosecutable in that sense so she can be punished for that?
No, well until in a 28 page ruling the judge has indeed, 3 judges, come to the conclusion, who instead of 4, have taken 6 weeks to look at this case. But it is worrying, I think, that this has come forward and actually you see here, why punishable or not, there is an increasingly dominant and also quite aggressive kind of pseudo-religion emerging in which people's feelings become the measure of all things. So to speak, the 'diversity&inclusion' ideology with its dogmas, which actually divides society into all kinds of identity and orientation groups, in which everyone can claim their own identity according to their feeling size, that is diversity, so to speak. And everyone has to accept it inclusively and if you don't, then according to the complainant you are therefore punishable, you are doing 'hate-speech', you are discriminating. And Päivi Räsänen, on the other hand, who says, "No, none of that, God's word is the standard, we are all sinners and we all need reconciliation. We are all equal before God." Well, that's the big difference.
Clearly. Last question Mr. van Schothorst: How do you think this case will proceed? Is the prosecution going to appeal in Finland?
Well, the 'general proscecutor' as she's called, that's a... I've been to that trial and she was enormously fanatical anyway. I honestly think she will appeal. That will become clear within 7 days. Ms. Räsänen's reaction was actually, I was talking to her just last week in Brussels, and I said to her, "I can't imagine you losing anyway." And she said, "Well, I have to see, because I also didn't expect that after two years of investigation, after ten pages of purging police report, after 13 hours of interrogation in total, that I would be charged anyway." And that did happen, so we don't know where it ends, but she says, "Don't be alarmed!" and that's a message we can all take away.
Thank you for your clarification, Henk Jan van Schothorst
Back to our guest at the table, Kees van der Staaij, did you follow that case?
Yes, yes, I also had earlier mail contact with Mrs. Räsänen to encourage her and to express support for her bold commitment also in Finland.
Yes, she bases herself on the Bible. There is also a case in the Netherlands, of pastor Kort, also acquitted this week. Is that remarkable, that it takes place in the same week?
Well, it is indeed remarkable that it takes place in the same week. The situations were legally different though, because Ms. Räsänen was formally prosecuted. The Prosecution really took the case to court. In the Netherlands it was about the fact that precisely the Prosecutor's Office initially said of: "No, we're not going to prosecute here" and that people complained about that to the court and the court said, "No, the Prosecution was actually right that they didn't see a case in this. So in the Netherlands it stops with that. In Finland, as Henk Jan van Schothorst pointed out, it's the ruling of a lower court and it can still be followed up. But I definitely recognize the similarities in the two cases and also the feelings of relief and gratitude that have been confirmed that there is and will continue to be room for the traditional Christian views on marriage and sexuality to be expressed, but at the same time, as Henk Jan van Schothorst also indicated, also the undertone of concern, of, let's face it, we can be grateful and I am absolutely grateful for these rulings, but it's actually serious that we were in suspense about this. That it's actually controversial anyway and the question is, is it at or over the limit or is it still allowed. That does indicate, what used to be actually self-evident what you were allowed to put forward, that now it's already, well, challenged, but the question is whether it's allowed. So the spiritual battle that lies beneath and behind this, you can see becoming manifest on the other side, and also for Mrs. Räsänen and for Pastor Kort, this means quite a bit, personally as well, that you are the object of investigation for months on end.
Do you also notice this in your profession, in politics, that when you base yourself on the Bible you meet with opposition?
Yes, certainly also in these areas; we have discussed this in the past in the chamber. When it comes to subjects like marriage and sexuality, you notice that what you think about them on the basis of the Bible is said very quickly: but isn't that insulting, doesn't that hurt people who already have such a hard time? On the other hand, I've also had conversations where I said: yes, but what do you think it means as a Christian in your deepest identity as a Christian, when people say: yes, you believe in fairy tales and it's all nonsense or whatever, we also experience what it means when something is important to you, that other people think very differently about it. But for that we don't have to take each other to court, but rather ask: why do you think that's important and what's behind it for you. So have a good conversation about that, but don't turn it into a court case.
Is this ruling also important from a European perspective? That it has an impact on Europe?
Yes, I think it shows, in fact you see that there is also by the European Court of Human Rights, where of course the various fundamental rights that are in the European Convention on Human Rights are also explained. It also deals with freedom of religion and the non-discrimination ban, that there is a prevailing view in various countries that there should be room to express an opinion that differs from the majority opinion on the basis of religion. So I do think that it is a confirmation of a European line in the judicial decisions.