New subsidies law might pose threat for religious communities Sweden


Northern Europe


Sunday service at Gustaf Vasa Church in Odenplan, Stockholm. Photo AFP, Jonathan Nackstrand

The new subsidies bill from the Swedish government threatens to endanger religious freedom. The government writes that pastors should be able to express their opinion on a particular behaviour. However, conversion therapy and "choice of a life partner" are mentioned explicitly in the draft law.

The government recently submitted the bill to the Riksdag, Varlden Idag reports. According to the Swedish news magazine, the bill's content can potentially be problematic for religious communities who hold onto a traditional and Biblical view on sexuality and marriage.

Even though the bill explicitly states that religious believers are allowed to tell people what the community's opinion on specific behaviour is, it also reads that "presenting threats of exclusion due to choice of life partner" or referring to conversion therapy is not allowed. These statements can be enough for religious communities to be denied government grants.

The government acknowledges that this denial of subsidy may conflict with religious freedom. However, it also points out that restrictions on religious freedom are valid as long as they are necessary for "public security, the protection of public order, health, morals or to protect the freedoms and rights of other people." It thereby quotes the European Convention. Furthermore, the Legislative Council, which assesses the feasibility of draft laws, stated that the requirements might violate the freedom of expression. However, it justifies the grant law by saying, "it does not mean that all statements should be compatible with state support."

What the exact consequences of the law are for pastoral work, for example, is still unclear. However, Varlden Idag expects that congregations will lose their grants if they refuse membership to people based on their choice of a life partner. The changes to the grant law are to be implemented on January 1, 2023, if the Riksdag passes the proposal.



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