State agency ‘violated freedom of religion’

State agency 'violated freedom of religion'
Image: Fredrik Persson/Scanpix; National Defence Radio Establishment
The head of Sweden’s Evangelical Free Church has slammed the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) upon learning that the agency spied on Word of Life pastor Ulf Ekman in the 1990s.

“A Swedish agency has crossed the line…and violated freedom of religion,” writes Evangelical Free Church head Stefan Swärd in a debate article published on Tuesday in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

“What I understand as the reason is that the Word of Life carried out missionary work in the then-Soviet Union and now in Russia. But FRA’s operations are only supposed to deal with questions related to threats against national security.”

The issue is of fundamental interest because many missionary organizations carry out activities in politically sensitive countries and because of the high demands on pastors’ duty to maintain confidentiality, writes Swärd, who wants to know if other religious leaders were under surveillance without criminal suspicions.

Ekman’s name was found on a list attached to a complaint originally filed by a FRA employee with Sweden’s Data Inspection Board, which has now launched an investigation and requested a meeting with FRA in September.