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Freedom Article
May 2000

Decision granting right to perform marriages follows registration of churches in Sweden, upholds human rights standards in Europe

In a landmark recognition with international ramifications for religious freedoms, the Church of Scientology was fully recognized as a religion in Sweden when the National Judicial Board for Public Lands & Funds granted its ministers the right to perform marriages.

In a four-page statement dated May 4, 2000, the National Judicial Board outlines the religious character, permanence and organization of the Church and concludes that Scientology fully meets the criteria for recognition as a religion. Noting that its churches had been granted the status of religious communities earlier this year, the Board found that Scientology also qualifies under the more stringent criteria of the Marriage Act.

Granting ministers the legal right to conduct weddings was the final step to achieving full and complete recognition as a religion in Sweden.

Sweden is the second country in just over a month to formally recognize Scientology as a religion. On March 31, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa also granted ministers of the Church of Scientology the right to perform marriages.

The Church of Scientology in Sweden provides services consisting of “prayer ceremonies, ceremonies for name-giving and funerals and the marriage ceremony,” the National Judicial Board stated.

The Board also found that “Scientology is a religion built upon the research, writings and teachings of its founder L. Ron Hubbard. Its sacred practices consist of spiritual counseling, called auditing, studies of the Scientology scriptures and devotion....”

Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International, acclaimed the recognition as a milestone for the Church of Scientology in Europe and for religious freedom.

“The Swedish government is establishing true religious freedom in Europe by applying its Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. This sets a standard for all other European governments,” said Rev. Jentzsch.

“The decision is a tremendous validation of the Scientology churches and ministers who have been competently serving their parishioners and communities for three decades,” said Tarja Vulto, spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in Sweden. “Now they can devote themselves that much more to their mission and the betterment of society.”

In November 1999, Swedish tax authorities declared the Church a non-profit organization with a religious purpose that serves a public benefit, thus entitled to exemption from taxes.

In March 2000, the National Judicial Board for Public Lands and Funds granted churches of Scientology the status of religious communities, a watershed event for religious equality in the European Union. The registrations were issued under a new law that took force on January 1, 2000 with the purpose of further establishing equal rights for all religions in Sweden.

The new Swedish law, entitled the Act on Religious Communities, mandates a separation of the Lutheran Church, officially called the Church of Sweden, and the State. The Lutheran Church and the Church of Scientology were among the first religious communities to be registered under the new Act.

Churches of Scientology throughout the world are open to all, providing help to members and others in their communities with individual and congregational services. They have created numerous public benefit programs and been trusted and depended upon in communities for years. Many of the Churches of Scientology in Europe have been established for decades and serve as the hub of thriving religious communities spanning several generations. As part of its social mission, the Church also supports many charitable and social programs in the areas of drug rehabilitation, criminal reform and literacy.

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