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Denmark


International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the state church and enjoys some privileges not available to other faiths.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. and Danish Governments discuss religious freedom issues in the context of their overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 16,640 square miles and its population is approximately 5.3 million. Over 86 percent of the population adheres to the Evangelical Lutheran Church; it is the only church that receives government funds. Other religious organizations represent approximately 5 percent of the population, with Muslims, the next largest group, accounting for 2 percent of the population. The remaining 9 percent of the citizens are without a religion.

There are missionaries operating within the country, including representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and Jehovah's Witnesses; however, there is no detailed information available on missionary activity.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

There is an official state religion. The Constitution stipulates that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the national church, and it is subsidized by the Government. However, no individual can be compelled to pay tax or provide financial support to the national church or any other religious organization. By 1969, 11 other religious organizations had official recognition by royal decree (essentially the State's permission for a religious organization to perform religious ceremonies; for example, weddings, which have civil validity).

Since the implementation of the 1969 Marriage Act, the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs has granted permission to clergy of 60 additional, nonrecognized religious organizations to perform marriages. The Marriage Act permits weddings to be performed "within other religious organizations," provided that one of the parties to the marriage belongs to the organization, and the organization has clergy that have been granted permission to perform marriage by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Thus, religious organizations no longer need to obtain "recognition" since "approval" is given when the Ministry grants permission to perform weddings to specific religious organizations. Both recognized and approved religions enjoy certain tax exemptions. The approval process is not complicated or protracted.

In February 1998, the Government appointed an independent four-member council to prepare guidelines and principles for official approval of religious organizations. The government statement accompanying the action noted that the step was taken due to the growing number of applications in recent years for official approval as a religious organization.

In March 1999, the Council published guidelines for future approval of religious organizations. These guidelines are linked to the 1969 Marriage Act. They established clear requirements that religious organizations must fulfill, including providing the following: A written text of the religion's central traditions; descriptions of its most important rituals; an organizational structure accessible for public control and approval; and constitutionally elected representatives who can be held responsible by authorities. Additionally, the organization must "not teach or perform actions inconsistent with public morality or order."

Scientologists continue to seek official approval as a religious organization. Their first application for approval was made in the early 1980's and rejected; the second application was made in mid-1997 and withdrawn in early 1998. The second application was resubmitted in 1999 and withdrawn again in early 2000, shortly before a decision by the Government was expected. In withdrawing the application, the Church of Scientology asked the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs for additional time to respond to reports about Scientology that had appeared in the media. In January 2001, Scientology officials reported that their lawyers were preparing to resubmit their application in the summer of 2001.

There are no restrictions on proselytizing so long as proselytizers obey the law and do not act inconsistently with public morality or order. All schools, including religious schools, receive government financial support. While the Evangelical Lutheran faith is taught in the public schools, a student may withdraw from religious classes with parental consent.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

In November 2000, Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen publicy criticized the practice of Muslim workers taking four "prayer breaks" during the workday. However, his comments were rejected widely, including by members of his own party, the Social Democrats. It generally was agreed that "prayer breaks" are not a problem in the workplace, and the Prime Minister publicly apologized on December 19.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

After several years of searching for an appropriate site, the Muslim community has identified a piece of land in Broendbyoester in which they would like to build the country's first Muslim cemetery. The Muslim community is also attempting to identify a site and funding for building a full-scale mosque in the country.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The country has a long history of welcoming religious minorities and affording them equal treatment. There are generally amicable relations between religious groups, although the recent influx of a substantial Muslim population has resulted in some tension with the majority population of adherents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minority group unemployment tends to be higher, and allegations of discrimination on the basis of religion sometimes are raised. However, it is difficult to separate religious differences from differences in language and ethnicity, and the latter may be at least as important in explaining unequal access to well-paying jobs and social advancement. There are no significant ecumenical movements that promote greater mutual understanding and religious tolerance.

Scientology officials complain of unfair treatment by the press, particularly in its extensive coverage of the church in the months preceding the anticipated government decision of the Scientologists' application for recognition as a religious organization (see Section II).

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. and Danish Governments discuss religious freedom issues in the context of their overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. 



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