The constitution states all individuals shall have the right to free exercise of religion, and all religious and philosophical communities shall be supported on equal terms. The constitution also states, “The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion,” national values “will remain our Christian and humanistic heritage,” and “The Church of Norway shall remain the country’s established church and be supported by the state.” The law further specifies the right of individuals to choose or change their faith or life-stance. Any person older than 15 has the right to join or leave a religious or life-stance community. Parents have the right to decide their child’s faith or life-stance community before age 15, but they must take into consideration the views of the child once they reach the age of seven and give those views priority once they reach age 12.
The penal code specifies penalties, including a fine or imprisonment for up to six months, for discrimination based on faith or life-stance, or for expressions of disrespect for religious believers or members of religious groups.
By law, the national government and local municipalities provide direct financial support to the Church of Norway. The national government provides an annual block grant that covers the cost of salaries, benefits, and pension plans of church employees. The national government may provide additional support for other projects. By law, localities provide partial funding for the maintenance of church properties, such as Church of Norway buildings and cemeteries, which other religious communities are required to fund on their own.
All registered faith and life stance organizations are eligible to apply for financial support from the government. The government pays prorated subsidies to 736 such organizations based on their 2022 membership when compared with membership in the Church of Norway.
According to the Religious Communities Act, religious and life stance communities with at least 50 registered members may apply for state subsidies, a decrease from the previous requirement of 500 adherents. Faith and life stance organizations must provide annual reports detailing activities, opportunities for children and youth, the use of the state subsidies, marital law administration, and gender equality, as well as any funds received from abroad. The law stipulates that the government can refuse applications for subsidies from organizations that receive funding from foreign states that “do not respect religious freedom.” The law does not further interpret what constitutes a state that does not respect religious freedom and the government does not publish a list of such countries. Approval of state subsidies for religious and life stance communities is made at the county level.
The government also continues to provide the Church of Norway with an annual block grant that pays the full cost of salaries, benefits, and pension plans of its employees. The government must provide additional funding to the church for maintenance of cemeteries and religious buildings, in addition to any provided by municipal governments.
To register, a faith or life stance organization must notify the government and provide its creed and doctrine, activities, names of board members, names and responsibilities of group leaders, operating rules – including who may become a member – voting rights, and the processes for amending statutes and dissolution. A group must report the national total number of members annually. If a religious group does not register, it does not receive financial support from the government.
Public schools include a mandatory course on Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical Information (CKREE) for grades one through 10. State-employed instructors teach the CKREE course, which covers world religions and philosophies and promotes tolerance and respect for all religious beliefs, as well as for atheism. Students may not opt out of this course. Schools do not permit religious ceremonies, but schools may organize religious outings, such as attending Christmas services at a local Church of Norway church. At their parents’ request, children may opt out of participating in or performing specific acts related to religion, such as a class trip to a church. Parents need not give a reason for requesting an exemption. Students may apply to be absent to celebrate certain religious holidays, such as an Eid or Passover, but there is no celebration or observance of such holidays in public schools.
Members of minority religious groups must apply for annual leave from work in order to celebrate religious holidays; many Christian religious holidays are official holidays. The 2021 Religious Act instructs employers to provide employees two days off work annually to observe religious holidays. Under the Labor Law, employers may refuse additional days off, even if those days are made up during other holidays. Det Mosaiske Trossamfund (DMT), the country’s principal Jewish organization, commented that performing work is forbidden on 13 Jewish holidays, and that Jewish employees could be compelled to come to work or face consequences under the Labor Law, including being evaluated for negligent performance.
The law bans clothing at educational institutions that mostly or fully covers the face. The law applies to students and teachers and prohibits the wearing of burqas or niqabs in schools and day-care centers.
A hate crime law punishes some expressions of disrespect for religious believers, which include expressions meant to threaten or mock someone, or promote hate, persecution, or contempt. Police are responsible for investigating criminal cases of discrimination, including those involving religion, such as hate crimes. The government-funded but independent Antidiscrimination Tribunal reviews noncriminal discrimination and harassment cases, including those involving religion.
Individuals may apply for a full exemption from the required registration for a year of military service for religious reasons and are not required to perform alternative service.
By law, an animal must be stunned or administered anesthetics before slaughter, making most traditional kosher and halal slaughter practices illegal. Halal and kosher meat consequently must be imported. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food routinely waived import duties on halal and kosher meat and provided guidance on import procedures to the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In 2021, organizations criticized the government for unequally applying COVID-19 restrictions among different faith and life-stance groups, including limits on gathering sizes and seating arrangements and banning funeral services at crematoriums, while permitting them with restrictions at churches. Pandemic restrictions on moving across municipalities to perform clerical and other professional duties did not apply to Church of Norway clergy, and the Church received funding from the government for financial losses resulting from the pandemic in 2021, while other faith and life-stance groups did not. In February, the government lifted remaining COVID restrictions, ending the effects those restrictions had on religious practice.
The government continued to implement measures identified in its action plan to counter antisemitism, and it also continued funding related projects carried out by government, academic institutions, and the DMT. The plan emphasizes data collection, training and education programs in schools, research on antisemitism and Jewish life in the country, and efforts to safeguard Jewish culture. For example, the government provided NOK 12.5 million ($1.2 million) to the Dembra Program to train teachers to increase awareness and prevent and combat antisemitism, prejudice, discrimination, and harassment of minorities in schools. The Dembra Program is coordinated by the Norwegian Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities (the Holocaust Center), an independent research and educational center associated with the University of Oslo. Throughout the year, the government continued to implement measures from its action plan to combat discrimination against and hate toward Muslims. The plan contains 18 measures that focus on research and education, dialogue across religious communities, and police initiatives, such as the registration of hate crimes toward Muslims as a separate category in crime statistics. The plan also outlines a new grant scheme outlining security measures for religious and life-stance communities. The government held an annual forum for government officials on anti-Muslim sentiment that included the Prime Minister and representatives of Muslim communities.
The Ministry of Justice and Public Security continued its NOK 5 million ($510,000) fund to enhance physical security for religious and life stance communities considered potential targets in the Police Security Service’s annual threat assessment. The Norwegian Police Directorate administers the fund.
The government continued to implement measures from its 2020-23 Action Plan against Racism and Discrimination on the Basis of Ethnicity and Religion.
Police continued to prohibit officers from wearing religious symbols, including religious headwear, with police uniforms. Other uniformed organizations allowed the use of religious headwear. The military provided some religious headwear that conformed to military dress regulations.
Christian, Muslim, and humanist chaplains served as officers in the military. Religious and humanist groups provided chaplains at their own expense to hospitals, universities, and prisons.
The Oslo Synagogue, in coordination with the DMT, also coordinated with the Oslo police, with funds from the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization, to provide added security for Jewish heritage sites and the Oslo Synagogue. It also acted as an intermediary between the Jewish community and police to facilitate timely reporting and monitoring of hate crimes.
The NGO Center against Racism continued to provide training and advisory services to police on detecting, investigating, and prosecuting racially and religiously motivated hate crimes. Police continued to assign personnel to support and coordinate these efforts, including providing resources to maintain hate crime investigators in each of the country’s 12 police districts.
The National Criminal Investigation Service continued to maintain a website for the public to contact police to report hate crimes and hate speech, including religiously motivated incidents.
The national CKREE curriculum continued to include components on Judaism and the Holocaust. In addition, the Ministry of Education and Research provided grants for school programs that raised awareness about antisemitism and hate speech, including religiously motivated hate speech. The government continued to fund the Jewish Pathfinders, a program through which young Jewish adults engaged with high school students about the teachings and principles of Judaism and being Jewish in the country. In many instances, the government provided these grants as part of its action plan against antisemitism.
Schools nationwide observed Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 (also known globally as International Holocaust Remembrance Day). The government allocated NOK 15.5 million ($1.6 million) to support extracurricular programs that took secondary school students to former Nazi concentration camps and other sites on three-day tours to educate them about the Holocaust. The two NGOs with primary responsibility for these programs, Hvite Busser (White Buses) and Aktive Fredsreiser (Travel for Peace), provided teaching materials, entrance fees, guided tours, and tour guide expenses for students who took day trips. Schools facilitated fundraising activities among the students as well.
Government funding of religious and life stance organizations totaled approximately NOK five billion ($510 million) during the year. The government provided NOK 2.434 billion ($250 million), or NOK 131 ($13) per member, to the Church of Norway for salaries and operating expenses during the year, including for pensions and benefits of church employees and clergy. The government provided other registered religious and life stance organizations approximately NOK 942 million ($95.8 million) in total, or NOK 1,350 ($137) per registered member. The Church of Jesus Christ continued to be the only major religious community choosing to decline government funding.
Under the new law, all funding for religious and life stance communities comes from the national government. However, the Church of Norway received additional local funding for the maintenance of church properties, such as church buildings and cemeteries, which other religious communities had to fund on their own. The Humanist Association repeated its criticism of this practice and stated that maintenance of properties should be a municipal responsibility, in order to ensure equal treatment.
The Ministry of Children and Families and the Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities in Norway (STL) acknowledged that some restrictions and registration requirements pose barriers to smaller organizations to register for funding. Most religious organizations and life stance communities registered and received government funding, channeled through the municipality where the organization is registered. STL and the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief raised concerns that the state’s ability to approve or deny financial support for an organization based on review of its application or an assessment of that group’s religious practices created the opportunity for the government to influence an organization’s religious beliefs or practice.
In January, the county governor of Oslo and Viken denied Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 2021 application for annual state support following an assessment of the group’s religious practices, despite the group having received funding for the previous 30 years. The determination was based on the group’s practice of “shunning,” according to a Jehovah’s Witness report. Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed the decision to the Ministry of Children and Families, which in October, announced it upheld the county governor’s decision. The practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses were also the subject of a high-profile legal case in which a former member was not permitted to have contact with her children when they were at church services or church events with the other parent, as they remained members of the group after her exclusion from the community. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that the Religious Freedom Act allows religious communities to make such decisions about their membership, and the court did not overrule the exclusion. In its decision, the court said that freedom of religion does not give anyone the right to become a member or to remain a member of a particular denomination. In October, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported the county governor’s office had informed them that the group risked loss of registration as a religious community, and that the office had provided a December deadline to “rectify the situation,” but gave no details on what changes were expected. The county governor’s office had made no changes to the Jehovah’s Witnesses registration status at year’s end.
In June, the Prime Minister announced that the government intended to outlaw “conversion therapy” (therapy intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity) as part of an action plan focused on improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender, queer, and intersex persons. There were, however, no reports of cases where conversion therapy was practiced. The proposed bill was sent for public consultation through October and then for submission to parliament for a vote in the spring of 2023. In October, the country’s Council of Catholic Bishops issued a statement opposing the bill, stating that it would restrict religious freedom. The bishops’ letter stated that “…prayer, intercession, or other religious practice” could become punishable under the draft. Jehovah’s Witnesses also objected to the proposal, stating in their annual report that the proposed law could be applied to include things said noncoercively during pastoral care and prayers.
The government provided NOK 74 million ($7.5 million) in subsidies for Church of Norway buildings and NOK 15.77 million ($1.6 million) to religious dialogue and umbrella organizations, such as STL, the Christian Council, the Buddhist Council, and the Muslim Dialogue Network, to promote dialogue and tolerance among religious groups and life stance organizations.
The government continued to fund workshops and other intervention programs that featured practitioners who worked with religious minorities to promote their economic and social integration into society. Efforts focused on youth education and engaging local community stakeholders.
New legislation presented by the previous government would ban religious activity in schools, such as attending school-organized church services. Under this legislation, students may apply for an exemption from the ban in order to voluntarily participate in religious activities in school. Schools would continue the teaching of religions and life stances as part of the regular curriculum. A public hearing on the legislation was completed in October and the government was further reviewing the legislation before their stated intention to introduce it to parliament in the spring of 2023, where it must pass two rounds in parliament before implementation. If approved, implementation would take place with the fall 2024 semester. There were no significant reports of opposition to the legislation from religious groups.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.