When Denmark’s constitution was adopted in 1849, freedom of religion and religious belief was one of the things enshrined in it.
At that time it was also envisaged that a law would be passed to regulate religious groups that were outside the the state church of Denmark, Folkekirken.
Yesterday, by a large majority, the Danish parliament finally got round to passing a law aimed at consolidating and defining the rights and duties applicable to all these religious groups. The new law will enter into force from 1 January 2018.
Better late than never
Church and culture minister Mette Bock is pleased that the promise made in 1849 been delivered on, albeit belatedly.
“There is a long and constitutionally protected tradition for religious freedom in Denmark,” she said.
“Everybody in Denmark has the right to worship their god in a way that accords with their conscience as long as it does not infringe Danish law. The new law will make it clear what rights and obligations apply to religious groups outside Folkekirken.”
More financial clarity
Religious groups that have previously been given state approval will retain this status under the new law. This permits them to seek tax exemption for membership donations and allows their officials to perform marriages as long as the demands of the relevant laws are satisfied.
However, under the new law, the group’s accounts and all donations over 20,000 kroner must be made public, and the church ministry will be supervising their organisation and finances.
The new law also relaxes the rules regarding the number of people necessary to constitute a religious group for the purposes of seeking state approval from 150 to 50.