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Historical background

Until the end of the 19th century every Finn had to belong to either the Lutheran or the Orthodox Church. It was not until the Nonconformity Act of 1889 was passed that the position of other Protestant churches was made official, and that is was permitted to become a member. The Baptists and the Methodists were the first religious denominations to gain official recognition.

The new constitution of independent Finland came into effect in 1919. It included the notion of freedom of religion and strengthened the autonomy of the Lutheran Church. The constitution was built on neutral and non-confessional principles. Nevertheless, the relations between Lutheran Church and Finnish state stayed relatively intact, e.g. the president of the Republic had the right to appoint bishops until 1999.

Freedom of religion was guaranteed in 1923, when the Freedom of Religion Act granted citizens the right to found religious denominations freely and to belong to them, or to remain entirely without religious affiliation. The rights and duties of citizens did not depend on the religious denomination to which they belonged, nor on whether they belonged to any religious community at all.

Updated by Kimmo Ketola

D 25 May 2017    AKimmo Kääriäinen

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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