Vapaa-ajattelijain Liitto ry

Uskonnottomien etu-, oikeusturva- ja kulttuurijärjestö

YK:lle huomioita uskonnottomien syrjinnästä
Jori Mäntysalo / 14.10.2016
The separation between state and the state-churches is not at all completed. Section 76 of the Constitution formalises the establishment of state church and gives privilege to the Evangelical Lutheran Church with Church Law.

Vapaa-ajattelijain liitto ja Suomen humanistiliitto ovat antaneet kansalaisjärjestöjen kannanoton YK:n ihmisoikeusneuvoston Suomea koskevaan määräaikaistarkasteluun. Kannanotto lähetettiin YK:n ihmisoikeusvaltuutetun toimistoon Geneveen lokakuun alussa. Tarkastelun kohdemaiden ihmisoikeustoimielimilla ja järjestöillä on mahdollisuus etukäteen esittää näkemyksiään pohjaksi ihmisloikeusneuvoton määräaikaistarkasteluun, joka Suomen osalta toteutetaan vuonna 2017.

Alla julkaistavan järjestöjen kannanoton yleislinja on sama kuin Kansainvälisen humanistisen ja eettisen unonin Ajatuksen vapaus 2015 -raportin arvio, jonka mukaan Suomessa on systemaattista syrjintää uskonnottomia kohtaan.

The Union of Freethinkers of Finland and
Humanist Association of Finland


Discrimination against non-religious persons in Finland

Non-religious persons still face some general as well as specific discrimination on human rights concerning religion or belief in Finland. Laws and public services are not equal, fair and neutral in that sense; both the Evangelical Lutheran and the Orthodox Church have unfair privileges. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion are not realized in kindergartens, schools and the army.

The separation between state and the state-churches is not at all completed. Section 76 of the Constitution formalises the establishment of state church and gives privilege to the Evangelical Lutheran Church with Church Law. The Parliament can legislate Church Law changes only if the Church itself makes an initiative proposal. Instead of the Parliament, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office could look and check the rules of The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Orthodox Church in similar manner to other religious communities, third sector associations and foundations.

The Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Churches have unfair privileges, they receive revenue from member fees by the state tax organization. The church tax is connected to local municipal tax and tax deductions. All others – associations, unions and religious communities – collect their member fees by themselves.

The church tax system is also unfair since a person who has resigned the church membership, is obliged to pay Church tax until end of the year even if he left church on January.

Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Churches have unfair privilege regarding compulsory basic education. Those children who are registered with either the Evangelical Lutheran or the Orthodox church are obliged to attend the subject teaching of their own religion. There are in Finnish schools also religiously neutral ethics or life stance education (elämänkatsomustieto) as a subject, but it is restricted from children who are members of these churches. All parents cannot choose this subject for their children. Instead parents of children who are not church members, can choose between the Evangelical Lutheran religion and the ethics as a subject. The system is not symmetric.

In General upper secondary education schools the Evangelical Lutheran and the Orthodox Churches have an unfair privilege to have their own religion subject teaching, which is obligatory for young students who are members of the Evangelical Lutheran or the Orthodox Church. These studenst can freely decide all other choices in their studies, but they are not allowed to choose religiously neutral ethics or life stance education (elämänkatsomustieto) as a subject instead of the Evangelical Lutheran or the Orthodox religion. Instead of that, students who are not church members, can choose between Evangelical Lutheran religion subject and ethics subject (obligatory two courses). The system is not symmetric. Students under 18 years cannot decide to leave church membership independently but only if both parents give permission. We see that this is against the Convention on The Rights of the Childs (Articla 12 and 14). Students are capable of forming their own views in accordance with the age and maturity, because they are allowed to independently do all other decisions in their curriculum.

We see also, that the official registration of religious status of children in the Population Registration Centre is against children’s rights and Convention on The Rights of the Childs (Art 14 and others). Of course the churches can have their own child member registers, but the official juridical status with tax duty and restriction in school and study choices are not right for children. The age of juridical status should be connected to the right of leaving the Evangelical Lutheran and the Orthodox Churches.

The school legislation and curriculums have developed in Finland so that the church service and the religious morning assembly do not belong the tasks of schools. Education in schools should not be religiously covenant, althought many schools still take some confessional church services and religious morning assemblies to their official program during the school year. The National Body of Education gives permission and instructions to arrange these religious ceremonies and even grace before lunch.

Religious ceremonies should not be part of the annual program of schools. If there still are those ceremonies during school year day program, it is better to provide alternative program during that time. The right solution is not a nice alternative program during a religious ceremony, but to stop the old tradition to arrange religious services during school day. The European Court of Human Rights has decided that there is a right for personal privacy concerning expression of religion or belief of family. This is not yet in practice and true in Finland- Because of tradition and “unofficial curriculum”, schools arrange religious ceremonies. The school authorities should give renewed instructions.

In the Finnish Defense Forses there is a public parade ceremony before march-past, and part of it is a religious ceremony. Those who do not want take part on this religious ceremony get directions to leave parade form just before this religious part of ceremony. This must be done under the tv-cameras and a large audience. This is in practice religious pressure to participate in this confessional religious ceremony, and the right of personal privacy concerning expression of religion or belief does not actualize.

There still exists in the Finnish Crime Law the punishment of blasphemy. The sentence can be fine or six months in prison (Chapter 17, § 10). It’s a shame also internationally, because it anso gives glounds to defend much harder punishments for blasphemy to rulers of several countries.

The basic principle for promoting the Freedom of thought, conscience and religion also in Finnish foreign policy should be a secular state.

The Evangelical-Lutheran State Church has a monopoly on services for undertaking funerals, maintained by state budget support.
The ministeries and authorities in Finland should take more advice from non-governemental organisations on non-religious people. Sometimes we are asked to give statements, but more often we are not.

The Freedom of Thought 2015 Report, which is published by the International Humanist and Ethic Union, has given grade “Systematic Discrimination” in its evaluation on Finland. ( (page 433-435).

According to the most recent Finnish government statistics, the largest belief group in Finland belongs to the Evangelical-Lutheran State Church which boasts 72,9 % of the population as members. 1.1% of the population identify with the second state religion, the Christian Orthodox Church. By far the second largest bloc are those who don’t identify with any religion, 24.3 %.

Helsinki 6. October 2016

Esa Ylikoski
General Secretary | |
Vapaa-ajattelijain Liitto ry