Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia has developed a stable, functioning democracy and performs well across international measures of fundamental freedoms. Eurobarometer polls consistently place Estonia as one of Europe’s least religious countries.

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Constitution and government

Freedom of religion and non-discrimination for religious beliefs is provided for in the constitution, in the Churches and Congregations Act 2002 and in the Equal Treatment Act 2008.  Non-religious ‘belief’ is not specifically referenced, though freedom of religion or belief is upheld in practice, and Estonia has one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, highest proportions of non-religious citizens.

The activities of religious organizations are regulated by the Churches and Congregations Act. Churches and congregations are treated as non-profit associations, and receive corresponding tax benefits. However, atheistic, humanist and secular organizations are registered directly as non-profits and therefore enjoy the same tax benefits.

The law specifies that individuals are never required to disclose their participation in a religious group, which may offer non-believers some further protection from discrimination.

Education and children’s rights

At school level, religious tuition is optional. Upon the request of at least 12 students, religious instruction must be made available, but state schools must adhere to a national syllabus which requires discussion of world religions with an emphasis on fostering tolerance and does not promote any particular church. A non-religious alternative is not offered.