She faces charges of making derogatory comments about LGBT+ people on three different occasions, including an article in 2004, a 2019 interview in a radio programme, and tweets in the same year, where she posted a picture of excerpts from the Bible.
The charges were announced for the first time in April 2021 by Finland’s state prosecutor, who said that Ms Rasanen’s remarks could fuel intolerance, contempt and hatred towards homosexuals.
The prosecutor said Ms Rasanen called homosexuality “a developmental disorder” in an online opinion letter published in 2004 and “a shame and a sin” on Twitter in 2019.
Later in 2019, she repeated her contempt for homosexuality by describing it as a form of “genetic degeneration” in a programme broadcast by Finnish public radio station Yle, according to the prosecutor.
Ms Rasanen has denied any wrongdoing and said the prosecutor’s claims were unfounded.
She told Reuters ahead of the trial: “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,” she said.
Ms Rasanen claimed that science has undeniably concluded that homosexuality is some form of a psychosexuality development disorder in her 2004 opinion piece, where she also claimed that gay relationships early in life could lead to sexual abuse by adult men.
In 2019, she tweeted a picture from the Bible condemning homosexuality while criticising the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran state church’s partnership with a leading LGBTI rights association to organise a Pride event.
The state prosecutor wants to fine Ms Rasanen, and the radio station was ordered to take out parts of the programme where she made the comments.
The court will rule on the case at a later date. It could prove to be a test for European societies on whether freedom of speech allows people with controversial thoughts and those with strong religious beliefs to participate in public debate.
Ms Rasanen arrived at court on Monday carrying a copy of the Bible. She said she was “honoured to be defending the freedom of speech and religion”.
Prosecutors argue that Ms Rasanen’s statements go beyond the limits of freedom of speech and religion and violate the equality and dignity of gay people.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies