Copenhagen to get religion-free ceremonial hall for special rituals

A 5-million project will offer solemn space to both believers and non-believers

Radikale party at the Copenhagen Municipality has proposed to build a religion-free ceremonial hall in the Danish capital, which would allow both believers and non-believers to celebrate various rituals and important transitions of life.

According to Tommy Petersen, the head of the Radikale project group, the idea has been on the table since 2009 and money has already been spent on a preliminary design.

Now, a 5-million proposal from Svendborg Architects suggests to convert columbariums (storage rooms for funeral urns) at Bispebjerg Cemetery – which are not all in use – into a faith-neutral ‘shrine’.

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Landmark of diversity
“There is nothing similar anywhere in the world and Denmark would with such a space become a landmark of diversity,” Anna Balk Møller, a spokesperson for Ceremonirum Association, which has been collaborating on the project, told Politiken.

“Instead of focusing on how we differ, we want to focus on what we have in common, and that is that people across cultures have a need to mark major transitions in life.”

The faith-neutral room would be completely stripped of any religious symbolism and based on three main values – solemnity, dignity and neutrality.

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Need for a framework
Ateistisk Selskab (the Atheistic Society in Denmark), which campaigns for  separation of church and state, and Humanistisk Samfund (the Humanistic Society), which organises non-religious rituals, both support the initiative.

Today, there are many who go to church and say yes to things they don’t really believe in just because they want to have a framework, and it is a pity that they cannot find a place that matches their views,” Anders Stjernholm, the chairman of Ateistisk Selskab, told Politiken.

“Everyone has a need for a ritualisation of transitions in life, even if they are not religious,” Lone Ree Milkær, the chairwoman of Humanistisk Samfund, added.