Advocacy statements

UPR Statement on Finland

  • Date / 2023
  • Location / Finland
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Universal Periodic Review


Humanists International

UN Human Rights Council, 52nd session (27 February – 4 April 2023)

Item 6: UPR Outcome of Finland

Thank you Mr President and thank you to the Finnish delegation for its presentation.

I make this statement on behalf of Humanists International, the Finnish Humanist Association and the Union of Freethinkers of Finland.

We are disappointed that Finland has not accepted the recommendation from Luxembourg to decriminalize attacks on the sanctity of religion.[1]

The Criminal Code of Finland penalizes public blasphemy with the maximum sentence of six months in prison.[2] Finland claims this is consistent with its international treaty obligations.

It is not. There is no human right not to be offended in one’s religious feelings, and moreover, international human rights law protects people, not abstract ideas or beliefs.

Shielding religion from ‘insult’ means prohibiting all manner of enquiry and critique in relation to religion or religious practices. The prohibition of blasphemy in Finland lends legitimacy to States who actively use ‘blasphemy’ laws to persecute minorities and anyone accused of “offending” religious sensibilities through their speech, writing, or through their mere existence.

We urge Finland to repeal the law against public blasphemy. Instead, existing laws against hate speech[3] should be used as intended to address speech that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

Citizens also have the constitutional right to be treated equitably. At present, the special public status of the Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Churches enables discrimination against the non-religious and members of other religious communities. For example, in the area of education, many children report being forced to participate in acts of worship in schools and in daycare centers, notwithstanding regulations stating that the curriculum must be “independent with regard to religion.”[4]

We call on Finland to uphold equal treatment of people regardless of their beliefs by taking the necessary legislative steps to revoke the special status of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Finnish Orthodox Church.

Thank you.


[1] 138.93

[2] Paragraph 10 of Chapter 17 of the Penal Code of Finland (https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/1889/18890039001#L17P10)

[3] Such as Paragraphs 10 and 11 of Chapter 11 of the Penal Code of Finland (https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/1889/18890039001#L11P10) and Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Chapter 24 of the Penal Code of Finland (https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/1889/18890039001#L24P9)

[4] Finnish National Agency for Education, National core curriculum for basic education 2014, page 16 (https://www.oph.fi/sites/default/files/documents/perusopetuksen_opetussuunnitelman_perusteet_2014.pdf )

Suggested academic reference

'UPR Statement on Finland', Humanists International

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