Swedish church ‘discriminates against women’

The Church of Sweden is to be investigated by equality chiefs, who suspect it of discriminating against women.

The Church of Sweden, a Lutheran church, has ordained women as priests since 1958, although pockets of opposition remain. The initial move was forced on the then-state church by the government.

Now, the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman, responsible for overseeing the implementation of Swedish sex discrimination laws, has said he plans to investigate the church.

Ombudsman Claes Borgström said he received large numbers of complaints of discrimination from people working for the church.

“The complaints are probably just the tip of the iceberg,” he told church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning.

Borgström pointed to the differences between the pay packets of deacons – usually women – and priests. The training of deacons lasts as long as that of priests and their jobs are similar. Despite this, parish priests earn on average 4,000 kronor a month more than deacons.

“Something doesn’t add up when it comes to deacons’ pay. There is a link to gender,” Borgström said. He added that the church had still not overcome opposition to female priests.

“I think that the importance of this is underestimated,” he said.

The investigation of the church will start in April and is expected to be complete by October.