Church Disestablishment in Norway

June 1, 2012

Last week the Storting (Parliament of Norway) gave the necessary second approval to a constitutional amendment terminating the longstanding relationship between the Lutheran Church and the State. Apparently the Church is still regarded as the folkekirke (church of the people, or nation), but otherwise all religious bodies are to be considered equal. The government will no longer  have a say in the appointment of pastors or bishops, though it will still provide the church with funding (as it does for other religious bodies as well).

There doesn’t seem to have been much controversy over this move; the Church approved it, and only three members of the Storting voted against.  Now there is a proposal to eliminate religious holidays, if not Easter at least the more obscure ones like Pentecost. Both disestablishment and elimination of Pentecost have been proposed in Denmark also.

According to figures I looked at a few years ago, Norway was a bit behind Denmark and Sweden in the rate of secularization, though still ahead of most of Europe; now though I see that estimated church attendance has declined to 2% of the population, which is about as low as in the rest of Scandinavia, and 46% of the population considers itself atheist.

I should look up the current situation in Finland, where a few years ago there was a large spike in the number of people canceling their church membership (using a nifty online tool they have) after some religious leader made an anti-gay statement on TV…


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