Täna on

Press release by the Round Table of Religious Organizations

4. December 2002

 Estonia discriminates non-Christians

On 29 November, the Round Table of the non-Christian religions of Estonia gathered in Tallinn. The Round Table that unites the organizations of Buddhist, Muslim, Baha’i, Krishna and Native religions, made a statement which protests against the state policy of religion discriminating the non-Christians, and calls the Estonian Government for cooperation in order to normalize the situation.

The statement asserts that during the last decade, there has been an increasing tendency in Estonia for Christians to receive ever more substantial incentives in legislation and the state budget. In July 2002, a new Churches and Congregations Law was enforced, granting more rights to Christian churches than to non-Christian ones and at the same time obligates the non-Christian religious organizations to use Christian terminology in their names.

The secularization of the Estonian society is greater than in many European countries. Just a third of Estonians claims the importance of religion to them. The roots of it lie already in the time preceding the Soviet occupation, when the religious freedom in Estonia surpassed that of the Northern countries: unlike Sweden or Finland, Estonia did not have a state church. However, the policy of religion does not reflect the situation adequately. Each year, taxpayers’ money in tens of millions of Estonian kroons is spent on supporting Christian structures. At the same time, Estonia lacks money for purchasing vital medical appliances.

On 17 October 2002, Siim Kallas (the Prime Minister of Estonia) and Einar Soone (Head of the Estonian Council of Churches) signed a protocol of common interests which will further increase the power of Christian organizations in Estonia. By signing the protocol, the Government obliged to establish the Christian chaplaincies also in hospitals, railway stations, airports and even in the police, in addition to those in the army and prisons. The obligation was also taken to spread the Christian religious education in state schools and to develop the national Christian social aid network. 

The Round Table of Religious Organizations claims that the Government thereby renounces its obligations to the non-Christian majority of the population and sets artificial obstacles to the democratic development of the society.