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RELIGION

Bible students forced to speak in tongues: report

Dozens of students at the Oslo International Bible College have claimed they were exposed by staff members to threats, harassment and accusations of witchcraft.

Bible students forced to speak in tongues: report
File photo: Solveig Vikene/Scanpix

Some 70 students at the college outlined their grievances in a letter to the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), student newspaper Universitas reports.

In the letter, the students accuse the school of widespread harassment, which included forcing them to speak in tongues.

According to the letter, signed by more half the students at the English-language school, staff also charged them with “carrying the devil’s spirit and practising witchcraft”.

Founded in 2010 by Finn Henrik Larsen – a pastor with the Pentecostal Regnbuen (Rainbow) church – the college offers two-year courses with the aim of ”training men and women to become leaders of churches, organizations and in society.”

According to Larsen, the students’ complaints came as a major surprise to staff at the college.  

“I’m trying to figure out why nobody said anything about the issues they are dissatisfied with,” he told Universitas.

“We were not made aware of the contents of the letter until several months after it was sent. What’s more, when you look at some of the complaints it’s impossible that 70 students experienced all these things,” he said.

NOKUT has already met with the management at the college to discuss the letter and is now awaiting the results of a detailed inspection by the Ministry of Education before deciding how to proceed.

Lars Vassbotten, a divisional director at the ministry, said his department had given the college until September 1st to present a thorough explanation.

He also noted that it was unusual for the ministry to make such a request.

“Only on a couple of occasions has the department seen the need to open a broader inspection beyond the annual reports,”  said Vassbotten.

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RELIGION

Norway separates church and state

The Norwegian parliament has voted to abolish the state church, a decision which is set to be confirmed in a constitutional amendment on Monday.

Norway separates church and state
Photo: NTB scanpix

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.

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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