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Financing of Churches

Support of faith communities

Faith communities which are seen as contributing to the building of society and the maintenance of fundamental common values, are supported financially by the Swedish state. This national state (...)

Faith communities which are seen as contributing to the building of society and the maintenance of fundamental common values, are supported financially by the Swedish state. This national state support is regulated by two acts and one regulation; the Act on Faith Communities (SFS 1998:1593), the Act on support to Faith Communities (SFS 1999:932) and the Regulation on State Subsidies to Faith Communities (SFS 1999:974).
The overarching aim of financial state support to faith communities is to create opportunities for them to maintain long term religious activity in the form of religious services, counseling, teaching and care. The support in the form of grants is handled by the Swedish Commission for Government Support to Faith Communities (SST) which is a state authority under the Ministry of Culture. It has a board of nine members and an advisory group made up of 24 representatives of different faith communities. The board is appointed by the government and consists of faith community representatives nominated by the advisory group. This means that the decision making body of SST is a state authority, gathering representatives of the receiving organizations of the state grants which it distributes.
SST distributes state grants to faith communities other than the Church of Sweden. It also provides other kinds of support and coordinates matters concerning the role of faith communities in catastrophe management (SFS 2007:1192). In order for an organization to receive support, a number of specified criteria have to be fulfilled (SFS 1999:932; SFS 1999:974; SST Tillämpningsföreskrifter 2009). The faith community has to: a) contribute to maintaining and strengthening the fundamental values of society; b) be organizationally stable and have a life force of its own; c) serve at least 3.000 people in Sweden and manage activities in several locations in the country (If it serves less people, it must then be part of an internationally active faith community of substantial importance in order to qualify for support); d) be organized as a registered faith community or a registered non-profit association with leadership in Sweden; e) be financed mainly by members living in Sweden; f) own or rent premises for its activities.
The meaning of the fundamental values of society is elaborated in the government’s bill to parliament on state support to faith communities (Regeringens proposition 1998/ 99: 124). This bill states that these values concern democratic values and the equal value of all humans, including equality between women and men. This means working against discrimination of people based on sex, skin color, national or ethnic origin, language or religious belonging, handicap, sexual orientation or age. It also means encouraging ethnic, language and religious minorities to maintain and develop a cultural and religious life of their own. It also states that in order to be eligible for grants, a faith community should encourage its members to take part in the life of society and clearly distance itself from antidemocratic currents in society.
There are currently 40 faith communities receiving state grants, which are of three different kinds: a) An organizational grant enabling provision of religious services, pastoral care and education, b) A working grant to support specific areas that the state wishes to subsidize, e.g. hospital chaplaincy and theological training at certain theological colleges, c) Project grants, which aim to stimulate new forms of activity and cooperation.
The major (organizational) grants are distributed according to an estimate of the number of people that the respective faith community serves; this can include more people than are members. Figures from the year 2009 show that 5.023.000 euros were distributed as organizational grants (Nämnden för statligt stöd till trossamfund, SST. Utbetalda statsbidrag 2009). These were distributed (in thousand euros) to the Pentecostal movement (649), Mission Covenant Church of Sweden (634), fifteen Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches (590), five Muslim organizations (529), the Roman Catholic Church (420), Inter Act (Evangeliska Frikyrkan) (251), National Evangelical Missionary Society (EFS) (232), Baptist Union of Sweden (156), Swedish Alliance Mission (118), Salvation Army (110), Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities (53), Buddhist cooperative council of Sweden (22), The Adventist Church (25), and nine minor Christian denominations (176).

April 2014
15 May 2014

Support to collect membership fees via the tax system

From 1 January 2000 the state made it possible for all officially registered and acknowledged faith communities to have their membership fees levied by the state via the tax system. This service (...)

From 1 January 2000 the state made it possible for all officially registered and acknowledged faith communities to have their membership fees levied by the state via the tax system. This service is free for the Church of Sweden as part of the disestablishment agreement between state and church. Other faith communities have to pay for this service, but receive on the other hand a general financial state support according to the reported number of people they serve. This support is only provided to the minority faith communities, and not to the Church of Sweden. In 2014, the following 8 faith communities collected their membership fees through the tax system (Skatteverket April 2014. Avgift till andra trossamfund): Mission Covenant Church of Sweden, Catholic Church, Swedish Alliance Mission, Baptist Union of Sweden, Inter Act (Evangeliska Frikyrkan), Salvation Army, Methodist Church, Pentecostal parishes in cooperation, Representative of Syrian-Orthodox Patriarch in Sweden, Bosnian Islamic community (BIS), Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Sweden and Scandinavia, Hungarian Protestant Community in Sweden, equmenia, Islamic Culture Center union in Sweden.

15 May 2014