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Indépendance et époque moderne

The time from independence from Sweden in 1905 and up to the present has been marked by a gradual loosening of the relationship between church and state, increasing legal recognition of the rights of members belonging to other or no religions, and the influence of international human rights law on several Norwegian laws on religion, particularly in the decades following the second world war.

While the first, tentative moves towards a separation of Church and State were taken in the 1970s, the final separation was adopted via constitutional amendments ratified by Parliament as late as 2012, as part of the 200-year anniversary of the Constitution. Despite the amendments, the continued influence of Christianity on Norwegian state power is secured, as Church of Norway is pronounced in the new §16 as the "people’s church", and §2 provides that the "Christian and humanist heritage" remain part of the values underpinning the Norwegian state. In 1969, the 1845 Law on dissenters was replaced by an Act on Faith Communities, providing faith communities outside the Church of Norway with access to funding and legal personality. Later on, similar funding has been made available to non-religious life-stance communities.

Throughout the 1970s and up to the present, Norway experienced increasing rates of immigration, significantly altering the demographic and religious makeup of the country, changes that have led to social tensions and legal challenges, ranging from the controversies surrounding the publication of the Satanic Verses in 1989 and the "cartoon controversy" of 2006, and to the continued discussions around the access to halal and kosher certified slaughter, the potential ban of the full face veil and the circumcision of baby boys, the latter of which became subject of its own legal bill in 2014.

Simultaneously, the societal role of the Church of Norway and the belief in God among the population has gradually diminished. Christenings and marriages have steadily diminished over the last years, and early in 2016, the number of non-believers overtook that of the believers for the first time since measurements started in the mid 1980s. Nevertheless, the Church and the so-called "Christian cultural heritage" of Norway continues to play an important symbolic and ceremonial role in the lives of many Norwegians, and frequently features in the many contentious debates of the last decade concerning the role of religions, notably Islam, in the Norwegian public sphere.

D 20 septembre 2016    AHelge Årsheim

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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