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The semi-official status of the Church of Sweden

Even if the former state church is presently an organisation separate from the state, some elements of the activities of the Church of Sweden are still closely connected to the state. An example is the fact that the Church owns a large part of Sweden’s national cultural heritage in the form of medieval churches and other old buildings. The Church has responsibility for their administration and preservation, which is regulated by a special act (SFS 1988:950). The second example stressing the special status of the Church of Sweden is the requirement by law that the monarch, as head of state, must belong to the Church of Sweden (SFS 1974:152). The third example is that the Church of Sweden retains primary responsibility for the maintenance of burial grounds, with the exception of some special arrangements in a few places in Sweden. This includes the provision of special burial plots for people of other religious traditions when such requests occur. The state has delegated this public service responsibility to the Church of Sweden through special legislation (SFS 1990:1144). This function of the Church of Sweden is often referred to as the last remaining part of its former position as a public authority, which could be handed over to the state sometime in the future. Currently, however, this is not an important issue in political or public debate.
The semi-official character of the Church of Sweden is obvious when the Church of Sweden Act is examined (SFS 1998:1591). It states the following: “that the confession of the Church is, even in the future, to be evangelical Lutheran; that the Church is to be open to all; that its activities should cover the country as a whole; and that it is to be a democratic organisation”. These examples demonstrate that the close connection between state and Church has not disappeared. The state still regards the Church of Sweden as something different from, and more important than other faith communities. The state has no comparable ambitions regarding other religious organisations. It can thus be said that the Church of Sweden still has a semi-official position.

D 4 March 2021    APer Pettersson

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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