A three-judge panel on the Helsinki District Court in Finland unanimously ruled to dismiss all the hate speech charges filed against Member of Parliament Paivi Rasanen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The hate speech charges came after the two shared their religious beliefs on marriage, which according to the Bible is a union between one man and one woman alone. The court ruled on Wednesday that the government must not interpret "biblical concepts."

According to the Christian Post, the Finnish court argued that the statements made by Rasanen, who is the former interior minister and Christian Democratic Party leader, did not constitute "hate speech" even if it may have offended the LGBT community. The court also ordered the prosecution to pay the legal fees involved in the trial.

"I'm relieved. I'm happy and grateful to God and to all the people that have supported me," Rasanen said during a press conference on Wednesday, adding that she felt a weight lifted off her shoulders and that she hopes the ruling would "prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal." Rasanen previously said it was a "privilege" to be prosecuted for her religious beliefs."

Representing Rasanen and Pohjola in the trial was Alliance Defending Freedom International, which said in a statement on Wednesday that the Finnish court upheld the right to free speech. Rasanen and Pohjola were charged with hate speech crimes after they wrote and publiushed a pamphlet in 2004 titled "Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity."

Rasanen and Pohjola were accused of incitement to hatred against a group. But the bishop explained during a press conference in 2021 that the charges fall under the section of "war crimes and crimes against humanity." Pohjola argued that they were being accused of sharing "opinions and allegations defaming and insulting homosexuals as a group based on their sexual orientation."

Aside from writing and publishing the pamphlet, Rasanen was also criminally charged for a tweet she wrote in 2019 wherein she criticized the Finnish Lutheran Church leaders for supporting LGBT pride month and for sharing her beliefs about homosexuality in a radio show also in 2019. If convicted, Rasanen could have faced two years in prison.

ADF International's executive director Paul Coleman praised the Finnish court's ruling, calling it an "important decision" that "upholds the fundamental right to freedom of speech in Finland." He argued further that people must be able to "share their beliefs without fear of censorship" as "the foundation of every free and democratic society."

Coleman added that criminalizing speech through "hate speech" laws actually hinders "important public debates" and threatens democracies as well. Rasanen admitted that she was surprised by the ruling.

Meanwhile, American evangelist Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took to Facebook to celebrate the dismissal of Rasanen's charges, writing that the MP "simply stands with biblical truth" despite being labeled as "hate speech."

"This was such a key case for free speech and religious liberty and sets a precedent that will impact not only her country, but beyond the borders of Finland," Graham wrote.