We the people of Sweden

Sweden is generally regarded as a very liberal secular democracy. Interestingly, it had a state church (the Church of Sweden) until the year 2000.

It’s constitution has four parts. The most relevant for our purposes are the Instrument of Government and the Freedom of the Press Act. Let’s see what they say.

In Chapter 1, Article 2 of the Instrument of Government, we have:

The public institutions shall combat discrimination of persons on grounds of gender, colour, national or ethnic origin, linguistic or religious affiliation, functional disability, sexual orientation, age or other circumstance affecting the private person. Opportunities should be promoted for ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities to preserve and develop a cultural and social life of their own.

The latter statement is interesting, especially for a country that is more secular than the United States, which in turn has no such statement in its constitution.

Article 1 of Chapter 2 lists the rights and freedoms afforded to citizens. Among them is:

freedom of worship: that is, the freedom to practise one’s religion alone or in the company of others.

(Later in the constitution, the right of the state to restrict these freedoms under certain rare circumstances, e.g. protection of the state, is laid out.) Some of these freedoms are also afforded to foreign nationals.

Then, in Article 2 of Chapter 2, we find quite a novel statement about coercion of citizens by public institutions:

Every citizen shall be protected in his relations with the public institutions against any coercion to divulge an opinion in a political, religious, cultural or other such connection. He shall furthermore be protected in his relations with the public institutions against any coercion to participate in a meeting for the formation of opinion or a demonstration or other manifestation of opinion, or to belong to a political association, religious community or other association for opinion referred to in sentence one.

In Article 4, Chapter 7 of the Freedom of the Press Act, we are told that certain things, if put into writing, will constitute punishable offenses against the freedom of the press. Among them are:

agitation against a population group, whereby a person threatens or expresses contempt for a population group or other such group with allusion to race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religious faith or sexual orientation

Importantly, the contempt described here is for a group of people, not a particular set of ideas or beliefs. I’m not sure if I’m just reading that into the text, but it seems that criminalizing any expression of contempt for an idea or a belief would be a clear case of government censorship.

Separation of church and state is not clearly defined in the constitution, and in fact some government functions can be delegated to religious communities:

Administrative functions may be delegated to a limited company, association, collective, foundation, registered religious community or any part of its organisation, or to a private person. If such a function involves the exercise of public authority, delegation shall be made by virtue of law. (Article 6, Chapter 11, Instruments of Government.)

And that wraps it up for Sweden!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: