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Liberté religieuse et situation juridique des communautés religieuses

In comparison with many other European countries, freedom of religion was introduced relatively late into Sweden. In 1726 a special decree prohibiting religious gatherings other than those of the established Church was issued, with the intention of containing the growing pietistic movement. These regulations were replaced in two steps 1860 and 1873 by new law which offered the possibility to leave the established Church if one became a member of another Christian denomination recognised by the state. Not until 1951 did Sweden get a law guaranteeing freedom of religion, giving Swedish citizens the right to freely practise a religion of their own choice, or to abstain from being a member of any religious body (SFS 1951:680). In the Swedish constitution, it is formulated as “freedom to practise religion, alone or together with other people” (SFS 1974:152).

Today, the Swedish state is officially neutral in relation to all faith communities. Since 1 January 2000, all faith communities should in principle be treated equally, although the Church of Sweden is still regulated separately and has particular responsibilities (see the section below). The Act on Faith Communities defines a faith community as “a community for religious activity that includes the arrangement of religious service” (SFS 1998:1593). This definition means that non-religious life view associations like the Swedish Humanist Association (Humanisterna) are not included within the state regulated group of faith communities. According to the act, no one is obliged to belong to a faith community, and children from the age of 12 must give their own consent to enter or leave a faith community. The communities requesting the legal status of “Faith community” can apply to the government, and thereby enter the official register of faith communities.

In order to become a registered faith community, three conditions must be met ; a) The aim of the community should be religious activity including organising worship, b) The community should have a board or similar function, c) The name of the community must be distinguishable from other organisations or activities, and should not be in conflict with for example general good order or social life. These conditions are very broad and open and give no special legal status, rights or economic benefits. In order to be eligible for financial support a faith community needs to meet certain criteria described below under the heading “Provisions”.

D 3 mars 2021    APer Pettersson

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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