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Individual religion as a factor to take into legal account

A general principle in Swedish society developed during the 20th Century has been that religion should be regarded as a private matter. No special recognition should be given to religion as a factor to take into account in public contexts. The public sphere should be a secular non-religious arena where all people are treated equally and are expected to accept the same social rules regardless of gender, ethnicity, cultural background or religion. This secular and religiously neutral public sphere has, however, slowly but continuously altered in character. The Swedish society has become more aware of the existence of immigrant cultures and the ways in which some of these regard the religion of individuals as a matter that has to be taken into account in public contexts. This changing attitude has been caused by increasing immigration in parallel with a general cultural shift from values stressing societal homogeneity and collectivism to subjective values stressing and respecting individuality, plurality and diversity.
However, when it comes to public holidays the effects of increasing plurality and the disestablishment of the Church have not yet caused any official changes and no Christian holidays have been made “secular”. Neither has any holidays been officially added from other religious traditions, although they are increasingly noted and made visible in public spaces such as the media and schools, an example being the Islamic Ramadan.
The general view is that religious observation belongs to the private sphere and so far no legal exemptions have been made with reference to religious belonging, with the exception of one case. This concerns members of the Jehovah Witnesses who in 1966 were totally exempted from the obligation to participate in military service.

D 16 May 2014    APer Pettersson

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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