The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.
The constitution states that “No person can, because of his religious belief or descent, be deprived of access to the full enjoyment of civil and political rights.”
The constitution stipulates the ELC is the state church, the state supports it, and the reigning monarch must be a member of the church. The ELC is the only religious group that receives state subsidies or funding directly through the tax system. General revenues fund approximately 14 percent of the church’s budget; the balance comes from a church tax that only members pay. Among the nonreligious activities the ELC carries out are the management of nonsectarian cemeteries and the registration of civil unions, births, deaths, and other vital statistics.
The criminal code prohibits blasphemy, defined as public mockery of or insult to the doctrine or worship of a legally recognized religion. The maximum penalty for a violation of this provision is a fine and up to four months in prison, but the provision is not enforced. Prosecutors routinely dismiss alleged blasphemy as protected free speech. The law also prohibits hate speech and penalizes public statements that threaten, insult, or degrade individuals on the basis of their religion or belief.
The country mandates compulsory military service, but provides an exemption for conscientious objectors. In lieu of military service, alternative civilian service may be required.
Religious symbols, such as headscarves, turbans, skull caps, and crucifixes, are banned from judicial attire.
On June 7, the parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage and compel churches in the ELC to carry out ceremonies for same-sex couples that are identical to heterosexual marriage celebrations. Under a new law that took effect on June 15, priests may opt out of performing the service for theological reasons, but a bishop must arrange for a replacement.
The government, through the Ministry of Justice, grants official status to other religious groups in addition to the ELC. Prior to 1970, eleven religious groups received approval in the form of recognition by royal decree, including the Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Russian Orthodox, and Jewish communities. Since 1970 the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, responsible for the administrative work of registering religious groups, has registered a total of 133 religious groups. In addition to 83 Christian groups, there are 23 Muslim, 11 Buddhist, eight Hindu, three Jewish and five other groups, including Bahais and followers of the indigenous Norse belief system Forn Sidr. Registered religious groups have certain special rights, including the right to perform marriage ceremonies with legal effect, baptize children, obtain residence permits for foreign clergy, establish cemeteries, and receive tax exemptions.
Religious groups not recognized by either royal decree or registered by the Ecclesiastic Ministry, such as the Church of Scientology, are entitled to engage in religious practices, but members of non-recognized religious groups must marry in a civil ceremony in addition to any religious ceremony. Unrecognized religious groups are not granted tax-exempt status.
The Guidelines for Approval of Religious Organizations require religious groups seeking registration to submit a document on the group’s central traditions; descriptions of its most important rituals; a copy of its rules, regulations, and organizational structure; an audited financial statement; and information about the group’s leadership and each member with a permanent address in the country. Additionally, the religious group must “not teach or perform actions inconsistent with public morality or order.”
All public and private schools, including religious schools, receive government financial support. Evangelical Lutheran theology is taught in public schools in accordance with the law; however, a student may withdraw from religion classes with parental consent. Additionally, the law requires that a Christian studies course also covering world religions be taught in public school. The course is compulsory, although students may be exempted if a parent presents a request in writing. If the student is 15 years old or older, the student and parent must jointly request the student’s exemption.
The law allows Muslim, Jewish, and Christian prayers to be substituted for collective prayer in such venues as school assemblies as long as preaching is not also included.
The law requires most foreign religious workers (except citizens of Turkey) to pass a Danish language test within six months of entering the country to be able to obtain an extension of their residence permits as religious workers.
The government is a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Common Prayer Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Second Pentecost, Whit Monday, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and the day after Christmas.