Church and State

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland's position with regard to the state has evolved. 

Until 1870, it was a state church. The state was bound to uphold the Lutheran confession, and it exerted a decisive influence on church-related matters. Finland's first freedom of religion legislation was enacted in 1922. Now, the ELCF may be considered a folk church. 

As a folk church, the ELCF is an integral part of national history and culture: the majority of Finns belong to it; the church's baptismal and funerary rites form part of Finnish tradition. The scope of its mission encompasses the entire nation. The folk church concept is neither nationalistic nor exclusive: rather, the folk church strives for a generous acceptance of all who live in Finland, whatever their ethnicity or faith may be.

Under the Finnish constitution, the organisation and administration of the church are provided for in church law, the content of which is decided by the General Synod, the church's highest decision making body. The church has a role in the undertaking of social tasks, such as the keeping of public records. In turn, the state is responsible for the provision of comprehensive religious education.

Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Orthodox Church have the right to levy tax, and they also receive a share of corporation tax.

Funds received through corporation tax are used as follows:

  • cemetery maintenance
  • church record keeping
  • church repairs
  • other costs associated with social services

The public legal status of the church requires the principle of transparency and disclosure at all levels. This principle covers the conduct of business, open documentation and transparency in employee relations and communications.