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Denmark - Religion

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.8 million (July 2018 estimate). According to an October 2018 estimate by Statistics Denmark, the government statistical office, 75 percent of all citizens are members of the ELC. The constitution declares the ELC as the country’s established Church, which shall receive state support and to which the reigning monarch must belong. The constitution also states individuals shall be free to form congregations to worship according to their beliefs, providing nothing “at variance with good morals or public order shall be taught or done.” It specifies that, “rules for religious bodies dissenting from the established Church shall be laid down by statute.” It stipulates that no person may be deprived of access to the full enjoyment of civil and political rights because of religious beliefs, and that these beliefs shall not be used to evade compliance with civic duty. It prohibits requiring individuals to make personal financial contributions to religious denominations to which they do not adhere.

The ELC is the only religious group that receives funding through state grants and voluntary taxes paid through payroll deduction from its members. Members receive a tax credit for their donations to the ELC. The voluntary taxes account for an estimated 86 percent of the ELC’s operating budget; the remaining 14 percent is provided through a combination of voluntary donations by congregants and government grants. Members of other recognized religious communities cannot contribute via payroll deduction but may donate to their own community voluntarily and receive an income tax credit. The ELC and other state-recognized religious communities carry out registration of civil unions, births, and deaths for their members.

Public schools must teach ELC theology; the instructors are public school teachers rather than persons provided by the ELC. Religious classes are compulsory in grades 1-9, although students may be exempted if a parent presents a request in writing. No alternative classes are offered. The ELC course curriculum in grades 1-6 focuses on life philosophies and ethics, biblical stories, and the history of Christianity. In grades 7-9, the curriculum adds a module on world religions. The course is optional in grade 10. If the student is 15 years old or older, the student and parent must jointly request the student’s exemption. Private schools are also required to teach religion classes in grades 1-9, including world religion in grades 7-9. The religion classes taught in grades 1-9 need not include ELC theology. Collective prayer in schools is allowed if it does not include proselytizing. Prayers are optional at the discretion of each school. They may consist of ELC, other Christian, Muslim, or Jewish prayers, and students may opt out of participating.

The University of Copenhagen’s Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies estimated in October 2017 that Muslims constitute 5.3 percent of the population. Muslim groups are concentrated in the largest cities, particularly Copenhagen, Odense, and Aarhus.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates other religious groups, each constituting less than 1 percent of the population, include, in descending order of size, Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Serbian Orthodox Christians, Jews, Baptists, Buddhists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pentecostals, and nondenominational Christians. Although estimates vary, the Jewish Society (previously known as Mosaike) stated the Jewish population numbers approximately 7,000, most of whom live in the Copenhagen metropolitan area. A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found 30 percent of persons identified as religiously unaffiliated. The constitution guarantees the right of individuals to worship according to their beliefs. It establishes the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) as the national church, which has privileges not available to other religious groups. Other religious groups must register with the government to receive tax and other benefits.

Recognized religious groups have the right to perform legal marriage ceremonies, name and baptize children with legal effect, issue legal death certificates, obtain residence permits for foreign clergy, establish cemeteries, and receive tax-deductible financial donations and various valued-added tax exemptions. A religious community law enacted in December 2017 effective on January 1 allows only religious communities recognized before 1970 to issue name, baptismal, and marriage certificates. According to the law, this privilege will expire for all religious communities except the ELC in 2023. Members of other religious communities or individuals unaffiliated with a recognized religious group may opt to have birth and death certificates issued by the health authority.

Groups not recognized by either royal decree or a government registration process, such as the Church of Scientology, are entitled to engage in religious practices without any kind of public registration, but members of those groups must marry in a civil ceremony in addition to any religious ceremony. Unrecognized religious groups are not granted fully tax-exempt status, but they have some tax benefits; for example, contributions by members are tax-deductible.

In August 2018 a law to ban masks and face coverings in public spaces, including burqas and niqabs, entered into force. In April 2018 Minister of Justice Soren Pape Poulsen stated the government enacted the law banning face coverings because concealing the face was antithetical to the social interaction and coexistence that was crucial in a society. According to a 2010 survey by the University of Copenhagen, an estimated 150 to 200 women in the country wore a niqab and three wore a burqa. Widespread media reporting portrayed the ban as targeting Muslim women.

In the first six months of the ban, 109 violations were filed with the National Police, resulting in 22 charges and 13 fines; 31 other cases resulted in a warning, with the person either removing the face covering or leaving the public space. Eight other inquiries were dismissed because the violation was in connection with a demonstration. Media reports stated the first fine involved a woman who wore a niqab in a shopping complex. She received a 1,000 kroner ($150) fine, and authorities asked her to remove the veil or leave the public space; she chose to leave. The Muslim community reported one family emigrated because of the law.

The government added seven new individuals, including two Americans, to a “hate preachers” list during the year 2018, banning them from entering the country. In December 2018 parliament enacted a law instituting a handshake requirement for persons becoming citizens that critics said targeted Muslims. In June a citizen-driven petition to ban circumcision for individuals younger than age 18 acquired enough signatures to be debated in parliament. The measure, strongly opposed by the Jewish and Muslim communities, was scheduled for a vote in 2019, and a majority of political parties said they would vote against it.

In January 2018 the government unveiled an action plan against what it called “ghetto” communities, which critics interpreted to mean Muslims, that included mandatory religious teaching on Christmas and Easter during day care for children receiving government benefits. The immigration and integration minister made statements critical of Islam.

The law permits the government to prevent religious figures who are foreign nationals and do not already have a residence permit from entering the country if the Ministry of Immigration and Integration determines their presence poses a threat to the public order. In such cases, the ministry places the individuals on a national sanctions list and bars them from entry into the country for a two-year period, which may be renewed.

In the first six months of the ban, 109 violations were filed with the National Police, resulting in 22 charges and 13 fines; 31 other cases resulted in a warning, with the person either removing the face covering or leaving the public space. Eight other inquiries were dismissed because the violation was in connection with a demonstration. Media reports stated the first fine involved a woman who wore a niqab in a shopping complex. She received a 1,000 kroner ($150) fine, and authorities asked her to remove the veil or leave the public space; she chose to leave. The Muslim community reported one family emigrated because of the law.

A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found 20 percent of persons agreed that government policies should support religious values and beliefs in the country; 43 percent agreed with the statement that Islam was fundamentally incompatible with the country’s culture and values.






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Page last modified: 25-09-2019 18:57:32 ZULU