In an unprecedented move this week, the Norwegian Parliament voted unanimously to abolish the national Church. Considering that 72% of the population (3.6 million people) are non-believers, it may not be a very surprising move, but it’s still noteworthy.
Before the parade starts, though, it turns out that this isn’t a complete separation of the two entities as was initially reported.
The country used to financially support the church and participated in selecting certain church officials — this new step will remove the government from that process while retaining some funding to the church.
According to the Norwegian Humanist Association’s website, this is only the first step in complete church and state separation. Up until now, all citizens who were baptized in Norway were automatically members of the Church of Norway despite a staggeringly low regular church attendance rate of 2%.
This amendment will start with the following steps:
- The Lutheran Church of Norway will be renamed The People’s Church
- Norway will no longer have an official national religion
- The government will no longer participate in the appointment of bishops and deans
- There will no longer be a requirement for parliamentary officials to be members of the Lutheran Church
- The church tax will remain in place (although a small portion will be going to humanist organizations)
- A church office will remain in the government, headed up by a minister
“… The Committee notes that the constitutional changes resulting from the settlement the church intends to clarify the Norwegian churches free position as religious communities. This means that the religious activities of the church will no longer be the state’s task. However, it is government’s task to support the church as a religious community, and to support other religious and philosophical alike. The Committee endorses the understanding that the changes represent a new basis for the development of the Norwegian Church as an independent religious communities. The Committee would also emphasize the importance of establishing security for the changes contribute to the preservation of the Norwegian Church’s mission to be an open, inclusive and democratic national church.”
So there is still some intermingling, but it sounds like they are off to a better start to a beautiful, secular future.