Freedom of religion
The aim of the Ministry of Education and Culture is to ensure the freedom of religion and to provide all people with possibilities to profess and practise their religion.
The Constitution of Finland guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. More detailed provisions on ensuring the right to exercise freedom of religion are laid down in the Freedom of Religion Act. The Act contains provisions on registered religious communities and membership of them, on joining and leaving religious communities and on practices concerning solemn declarations and the taking of oath.
The Act also has a bearing on the provisions on the teaching of religion and ethics in comprehensive schools and general upper secondary schools. There are also separate laws on the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and on the Orthodox Church of Finland.
The religious affiliation of a child
The religious affiliation of a child under 12 years of age is decided by the parents jointly.
The religious affiliation of a teenager aged between 12 and 17 can only be changed by a joint decision of the child and his or her parents or guardian.
In the comprehensive and upper secondary schools, students belonging to a religious community are given religious education and the non-affiliated are taught ethics. A significant minority of today's pupils are non-religious or belong to another religion.
Denominational teaching other than Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox is given if there are at least three pupils or students belonging to the same religious community and their parents request it.
The concept instruction in one's own religion strives to guarantee the rights of minorities and to ensure that the child receives an education in accordance with their family's convictions.
Curricula for different religions are created jointly by religious communities and educational authorities. The goal of a religious curriculum is to familiarise pupils with their own religion and the Finnish traditions of belief, acquaint students with other religions and help them understand the cultural and human significance of religions.
The Freedom of Religion Act does not impinge on school traditions. For example the singing of traditional hymns at end-of-term celebrations in spring and before Christmas does not constitute the practice of a religion in the meaning of the Act. The meaning of these celebrations is seen to be to pass on and preserve culture.
The communal system of comprehensive schools carries the main responsibility for providing compulsory education in Finland. Compared with the total number of schools, the proportion of licensed private schools is small. Licenses have also been granted for a few comprehensive schools which are based on religious confessions.
There are two Finnish-language and one Swedish-language theological faculty in universities.
Joni Hiitola, Senior Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of Education and Culture, Kulttuuri- ja taidepolitiikan osasto (KUPO), Strategic Steering Division Telephone:0295330108
Anne-Marie Brisson, Senior Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of Education and Culture, Varhaiskasvatuksen, perusopetuksen ja vapaan sivistystyön osasto ( VAPOS ) Telephone:0295330079