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New draft law on the Church of Norway and other religious and life stance communities

  • September 2017

In September 2017, the Government announced a draft legislation for the regulation of the Church of Norway and the financing of other religious and life stance communities. The new law will replace the Act on Faith Communities (1969), the Act Relating to Allocations to Religious Communities (1981) and the Church Act (1996), and represents the most significant legal change following the 2012 constitutional amendments altering the relationship between church and state.

In line with the new § 16 of the Constitution, the draft law provides a set of regulations on the “system” of the Church of Norway, and a set of regulations for the allotment of state support to other religious and life stance communities. Additionally, the draft law introduces a set of new criteria for state support, including a minimum of 500 members, an age limit of 15 for support-generating members and the possibility to withdraw support for communities that break the law, encourage harmful child rearing or receive funding from states that do not respect the freedom of religion or belief. Additionally, the law specifies conditions for exclusive support to the Church of Norway, which is conditional on expenses that maintain church buildings dating from before 1900, expenses made for public services and expenses that are specifically tied to the status of the Church of Norway as the “established” church of the state.

The draft law is subject to a public hearing, before the Ministry of Culture presents a revised version to parliament in 2018. Parliamentary consideration is likely to be postponed until the Ministry finalizes its much awaited white paper on religious policy.

18 December 2017