A Hundred Years of Religious Freedom in Finland





Freedom of religion, History, State church, Basic right, Religious Education


This article examines how religious freedom has been implemented and interpreted in Finland over the last hundred years. Moving chronologically, I explore the most crucial developmental phases in religious freedom legislation and public discussion. The Act on the Freedom of Religion was only introduced after Finland’s independence in 1917 and entered into force at the beginning of 1923. The article shows themes that provoked much discussion in the 1920s and were interestingly repeated in the debate in the 1960s. The question of the relationship between the church and state was at the core of the Finnish public debate on freedom of religion from the outset. A similar discussion again became visible at the turn of the twenty-first century in connection with the basic rights reform and processing of the new Act on the Freedom of Religion. The strength of the Finnish state church system in society is still illustrated by the fact that the Act on the Freedom of Religion of 2003 did not really change the basic premise regarding the Lutheran and Orthodox churches, which hold a special position. Opinion remains divided on whether such a system is problematic for the realization of religious freedom.

Author Biography

Ilkka Huhta, University of Eastern Finland

is Professor of Church History at the University of Eastern Finland.




How to Cite

Huhta, I. (2022). A Hundred Years of Religious Freedom in Finland. Temenos - Nordic Journal for the Study of Religion, 58(2), 169–191. https://doi.org/10.33356/temenos.115502