Norway separates church and state

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Photo: NTB scanpix
13:39 CEST+02:00
The Norwegian parliament has voted to abolish the state church, a decision which is set to be confirmed in a constitutional amendment on Monday.

The vote last Wednesday was backed by parties across the political spectrum and has the effect of severing the connection between Norway and the Church of Norway, making Norway a secular state.

Svein Arne Lindø, chair of the church council, welcomed the decision which is the result of an agreement signed between the government and the church in 2008.

"Once the decision to change the constitution is made on Monday, it will be a great day for us. It's a great day for both church and country," he told state news agency NRK.

In practice the change means that the state relinquishes any control over the Church of Norway including the appointments of pastors and bishops. The decision will furthermore establish equality between the Church of Norway and other faiths represented in the country. 

Church leaders will be in attendance at Norway's Stortinget parliament to witness the constitutional amendment on Monday afternoon. 

The Lutheran Church was formally recognised as the state church in the Norwegian constitution framed after independence from Denmark in 1814.

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Some 79.2 percent of Norwegians were registered as members of the Church of Norway as of January 1st 2010, although membership has been in steady decline over the past decade.

According to recent figures only 2 percent of Norwegians attend church regularly, and according to 2005 Gallup poll, 46 percent considered themselves atheists.

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