Sweden supports churches with anti-gay views: report

Sweden supports churches with anti-gay views: report
A number of Sweden's faith communities that refuse to accept homosexuals as members continue to receive state support despite requirements that they uphold the country's “social values”.

Since 2000, when the Church of Sweden officially separated from the Swedish state, religious groups in Sweden, including the church, have been allowed to seek money from the state to support their operations.

One of the requirements for receiving support is contributing to “maintaining and strengthening the basic values upon which society rests”.

Despite the requirement, a survey by the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper revealed that ten of nearly 20 faith communities polled that receive state funding responded that homosexuality isn’t compatible with their teachings.

The survey found that eight religious communities banned openly gay members from holding high-ranking positions, while two responded that they don’t accept members who are in same-sex relationships.

“The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. I’d interpret that as a basic Swedish value we’ve come to an agreement about,” Ulrika Westerlund, head of The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), told the newspaper.

According to the Evangelical Lutheran Mission – Friends of the Bible (ELM Bibeltrogna vänner), living in a “homosexual relationship is wrong and can therefore result in someone not being a member”.

And the Seventh Day Adventist Church responded to SvD that “those who live in a homosexual relationship can’t be members of our parish/church”.

Westerlund said it’s no secret that a number of primarily evangelical Christian churches in Sweden that “don’t accept” the rights of homosexuals and transgender individuals.

But she believes that such groups still qualify for financial support from the state sends the wrong message.

“I think the requirement that religious orders uphold societal values is good and I think the state ought to take it with the utmost seriousness,” she said.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only religious community which has been denied funding for not meeting the requirement that it uphold social values because the group actively encourages members not to vote, SvD reports.

According to Stefan Attefall, Sweden’s Christian Democrat Minister for Social Affairs who has responsibility for religious communities, there is a difference between discouraging people from voting and a church’s views about homosexuality.

“You have to differentiate between wanting to participate in society versus having the same views that the state has,” he told SvD.

“If we had a system where we only gave money to those that have the same views as us, we’d be building a totalitarian society.”

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