By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Thousands of Hungarian Christians rallied Sunday near Finland’s embassy in Budapest against the “hate speech” trial of two prominent Finns who publicly quoted the Bible on homosexuality.
With Bibles and banners such as “Truth will set you free,” roughly 3,000 protestors backed Christian legislator Paivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola, whose court case resumes Monday.
Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011-2015, and Bishop Pohjola defended their decision to publish Biblical views on homosexuality as well as sex and marriage.
Charges against Räsänen related to perceived anti-LGBT+ remarks, including on social media when she quoted Bible verse Romans 1:24–27 calling homosexual acts “shameful lusts.”
In 2019, Räsänen published a photograph of the verse written by Apostle Paul on networking site Twitter while asking why the Finnish Lutheran Church supported Finland’s Pride week. The charges also cited an article published online and in a radio interview she gave.
Prosecutors want the court in Helsinki to rule that citing the Bible can be considered a crime in some cases in Finland, noted speakers at Sunday’s protest. “We organized this protest because we think that with this trial, freedom of religion and freedom of speech got in danger,” rally organizer Sára Kulifai told Worthy News.
“Lots of people gave their sweat and blood to ensure we have these basic rights,” the devoted Christian added. “And we want to honor them as well as the billions of Christians, whose faith stands on the Bible, God’s eternal Word. There were people of all denominations attending the protest.”
Kulifai, a prominent journalist, stressed, “We won’t let any state or persecutor censor, cancel, or cherry-pick what we can or cannot quote out of the Bible. Jesus said to proclaim the Good News, and proclaim truth, and Christians will continue to do so.”
In a recorded message to protestors, Räsänen said it was “incredibly moving and encouraging” to see the crowd supporting her. “I followed the event on the Facebook website. Thanks a million to all the organizers. Thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ that we are one family in Him,” she added.
Separately she said: I hope it will be clear today that I do not wish to offend any group of people, but that it is about saving people for eternal life.”
Prosecutors aren’t convinced. Besides several charges, they have raised concerns about Räsänen’s 23-page booklet titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” prosecutors noted.
Bishop Pohjola is being charged for publishing Räsänen’s booklet, which argues against same-sex marriage, and other materials. The publications contrast LGBT+ identities with the “Christian notion” of what it means to be human, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Räsänen and Pohjola could see up to two years imprisonment for hate speech, but prosecutors say they will seek fines of as much as 13,000 euro ($14,750)
Their trial resonates in Hungary, where the conservative government is under European Union pressure to overturn a child protection law that critics view as anti-LGBT+ legislation.
The law effectively bans education or “propaganda” on LGBT+ issues to minors, including schools.
Hungary also has the world’s first government agency dedicated to providing aid to persecuted Christians, though it didn’t openly support the February 13 rally.
However, protestors read out and sent a petition to the Finnish Ambassador Markku Virri warning that while “the world can change, the Word stays forever.”
The document added that “No government or court should interfere with the relationship of a person and God, and the road of searching of salvation.”
It stressed that the billions of people claiming to be Christians show that while “many have tried to do so during the history none of them succeeded” in eliminating Christianity.
“Today, it has become favored to rewrite the history, to overwrite eternal hypotheses of the nature, and to interchange ground moral values. We adjure Finland to do not step on this road,” the petition concluded.
The Finnish embassy did not officially accept the petition saying they are closed on Sundays.
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