Freedom of religion

Last updated: 13/12-2022

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about freedom of religion. Choosing for yourself which religion or faith to have is a human right. This right also means that you are free to choose not to have any religion at all. Freedom of religion means that everyone has the right to practise their religion. You are entitled to pray and celebrate church service. You are also entitled to celebrate Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah or other religious festivities. There are laws that protect your right to believe in any religion or faith you wish.

The text describes what freedom of religion means. It also describes the laws and conventions that protect and uphold freedom of religion.

Everyone in Sweden is entitled to practise their religion

Christianity played a major role in Swedish history. In the past, every Swede had to belong to a Christian congregation. It made no difference if they were of a different faith, or of no faith at all. It was not until 1951 that freedom of religion became law in Sweden, and today, freedom of religion is part of the Swedish constitution.

Freedom of religion means that:

  • Everyone is entitled to practise their religion. This might be prayer or starting religious associations.
  • A person does not have to tell others about their religion if they do not want to.
  • Children are not obliged to choose the same religion as their family.
  • Everyone is entitled to change their religion if they want to.
  • Everyone is entitled to celebrate religious festivals.
  • Employers have to be open to their employees practising their religion – for instance, that prayer during working hours is permitted as long as it does not interfere with work. The same applies to wearing religious symbols or clothes.
  • Everyone is entitled to being accepted no matter what their choice of religion, including if that choice is to have no religion at all.

Do you recognise these rights from the country or countries where you lived previously?

What rights exist there?

What rights do not?

The UN protects freedom of religion

Freedom of religion is a human right. It is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, and in the Child Convention.

Discrimination and freedom of religion

Freedom of religion is limited in many countries. In some countries, people are persecuted, driven away, and murdered because of their faith or religion. Infringements of freedom of religion happen in Sweden as well.

The law says that no person may be discriminated against due to their religion or other belief system. For example, a doctor may not refuse to give you medical care because of your religion. Similarly, an employer may not refrain from inviting you to a job interview because you do not have the same religion as they do.

Atheism, or the absence of a belief in any god, is quite common in Sweden. Sometimes this leads to the discrimination of people who believe in a god or gods, even though there are laws against this.

The law uses the terms religion and other belief systems. Religions include Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Other belief systems include Buddhism, atheism, and agnosticism.