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Background: What is the swedish Law on Religious
Communities and how it was applied on Scientology

 
Following the granting of full tax exemption by Swedish tax authorities last November, Churches of Scientology in Sweden are now registered as "religious communities" by the National Judicial Board for Public Lands & Funds.  This is a new body, and the registrations were made under a new law on religious communities that took force on January 1, 2000.

We were informed of this, through Swedish counsel, by the National Judicial Board on Friday.  The official registrations were obtained Monday, March 13.  The Church of Scientology of Sweden and local churches of Scientology in Gothenburg, Malmo and Stockholm are all separately registered.

The registrations are made under a new law called the Act on Religious Communities, one of a series of laws that are implementing the separation of Church and State in Sweden.  Ever since the 16th century, the Lutheran Church has held the privileged status of being the state Church.  As of January 1, 2000, that status officially came to an end.  The Lutheran Church is now known officially at the Church of Sweden, and it and the Church of Scientology are the first two religious communities to receive registration under the new Act.

To give you a better understanding of this new law, section 1, 2 and 5 of the Act on Religious Communities states:

"(1) There are provisions about freedom of religion in the Constitution and in the European Convention on Protection of the Human Rights and the Basic Freedoms."

"(2) A religious community in the sense of this law is a community for religious activity which includes organizing religious services."

The significance of the registration is that the Church of Scientology now stands on an equal footing with the Lutheran Church, as do all other churches that receive registration.  The registration is entered in a corporate register of religious communities that was established as of 1st January.

Until now, the Swedish Churches were corporately registered and operating as idealistic associations.

An important point to remember too is that last November, the tax authorities in Stockholm granted the Church exemption from all taxes on the basis that the Church is a nonprofit organization with a religious purpose.  The tax office in Stockholm adjudicated that the Church is an idealistic association providing a public benefit and therefore exempt from corporate income tax and value added tax.

In the written background to the decision, which arose out of a past tax matter relating to the Swedish Church, the ruling from the tax authorities refers to the Church's activities as "consist[ing] of, among other things, worship, services such as baptism, marriages and funerals, spiritual counselling and study of the Church's scripture." The Church's economic activity, the tax authorities found, forms a natural part of its publicly beneficial purpose, and the Church falls within the tax code which exempts associations whose purpose is to forward religious objectives.

All Churches of Scientology in Sweden were registered on March 13 as "religious communities" by the National Judicial Board for Public Lands & Funds.  The registrations were made under a new law on religious communities that took force on January 1, 2000, with the purpose of further establishing equal rights for all religions in Sweden.

These registrations follow the granting of full tax exemption to the Church by Swedish tax authorities last November. They amount to an unequivocal recognition that the Swedish government is honoring its commitment to ensure religious equity, and they confirm the status of Church of Scientology as a religion in Sweden.

The law, titled the Act on Religious Communities, mandates a separation of the Lutheran Church, officially called the Church of Sweden, and the State.  The Lutheran Church and the Church of Scientology are among the first religious communities to be registered under the new Act.

The Church of Scientology of Sweden as well as local churches of Scientology in Goteborg, Malmo and Stockholm all received registrations. The same day, registrations were also issued for the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Salvation Army.

"These registrations show that Sweden is again leading the way in Europe when it comes to promoting equality between religions," said Rev.  Heber C.  Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International.  "All across the world from the United States to Sweden to Australia, Scientology is now recognized as a worldwide religion."

The new Act confirms that Sweden's treatment of religious communities aligns with the provisions about freedom of religion in the Swedish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.  According to the Act, "A religious community in the sense of this law is a community for religious activity which includes organizing religious services."

The Church of Scientology in Sweden celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.  In November the same year, Swedish tax authorities declared the Church a non-profit organization with a religious purpose that serves a public benefit, and is therefore entitled to exemption from taxes.  That decision by the Stockholm tax office was a milestone for the Church of Scientology in Sweden, and the new registrations as religious communities further confirm the religious status and establishment of the Church in Swedish society.

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