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Higher education in law of religion

In Denmark, education and training in law on or relevant to religion is only done to a very limited degree.

At the university level, elements of law of religion may be included across a number of different educational programmes. In theological education, for example, a general discussion of a Lutheran understanding of ‘law and gospel’ is included as well as history of creeds, canons and the councils of the church. Some of the practical theology classes include elements of ecclesiastical or canon law. Elements of Islamic law, ethics and practice are taught in master’s programmes on Islamic Studies. Educational programmes on sociology and history of religion also include a general introduction to aspects of religion and law, and some in-depth discussion of key cases relevant to law and religion, e.g. recognition of religious communities or recent legislation on religion, and so on.

From time to time, full bachelor or master-level classes on ‘law and religion’ are taught at the University of Aarhus and the University of Copenhagen, offered for both students of law and religion or theology. This is usually accredited as an elective with a curriculum on various legal aspects of religion, including history of doctrine and law, elements of historical ecclesiastical and canon law, constitutional and international law relevant to church and religion, and an overview legislation and court cases relevant to religion, e.g. elements of family law, mediation, religious rights, discrimination law, international law and cases on e.g. doctrinal matters of the church or religious elements in renowned terrorism cases.

At law schools, e.g. at the Faculty of Law at the University of Copenhagen, elements of religion and law are included in the mandatory classes. This includes the mandatory BA course on ‘law, morality and politics,’ which also constitutes the compulsory theory of science in the law program.

At theology faculties, in both Aarhus University and University of Copenhagen, some elements of law and religion are mandatory, including the ancient and reformation canon, confessions and creeds as well as the constitutional documents of the Church of Denmark (folkekirken), which usually include the Ordinance of the Church from 1537, the historic country laws and the Danish Constitution, esp. articles 4, 6, 66, 67, 68, and 69. (see further on the Danish Legal Framework)

As part of professional or vocational training, elements of law of religion may be included in the seminar and continuous training for priests and provosts, most often at the Centre for Pastoral Education and Research.

Higher education on sociology and history of religion
In Denmark, higher education on sociology and history of religion is done at three universities, Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen and University of Southern Denmark. All three offer both BA and MA programmes in religion, with significant mandatory elements of both sociology and history of religion. The graduates of these programmes qualify for teaching religion as a mandatory subject in upper secondary school (Gymnasium), but obviously serve in many professional capacities across private and public sectors.

Higher education on theology
While both Aarhus University and University of Copenhagen offer bachelor and master programmes in Theology, the only faculty of theology in Denmark remains in Copenhagen. Theology is taught on academic and non-confessional merits, but with certain elements pertaining to the history and confession of the Church of Denmark as part of mandatory curriculum.

Research on Law of religion
University of Aarhus runs a research centre on contemporary religion, which addresses many of the research questions related to religion public, including law, society and politics. The Centre for Contemporary Religion gathers information each year about approved and recognised religious groups in Denmark and is the most complete overview of religion in Denmark today. Annually, they publish an e-yearbook entitled Religion in Denmark, where a significant number of different religious groups are included, providing the basis for a general information about religion in Denmark today, but also, usually, with a particular topical focus (Read more: here).

The regular teaching and research related to law and religion at Aarhus University is conducted mainly at the Department of the Study of Religion and the Department of Theology, both the School of Culture and Society. At the Department of the Study of Religion, the research programme is focused on the study of religion from the perspective of biological and cultural evolution and their interactions. It aims to examine identical elements of religion across time and space, while, simultaneously, paying heed to the perpetual and mutual adaptation of religion and culture. It consists of five research units with a number of partners within and outside School of Culture and Society. The five units are: 1. Religion, Cognition, and Culture; 2. Centre for the Study of Contemporary Religion; 3. History of Religion; 4. Arabic and Islamic Studies; 5. South Asian Religion (Read more: here).

At the University of Copenhagen, research relevant to law and religion is conducted across the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Humanities (in particular, Dep. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies), and the Faculty of Theology.
At the Faculty of Law, religion may feature in many different particular research agendas, but much of it is located at the Center for European and Comparative Legal Studies.The focus is on European law, constitutional law as well as approaches or methodologies, especially comparative legal studies, which includes legal cultural studies and law & religion (Read more: here).
At the Faculty of Humanities, research relevant to law and religion is centred at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, across of disciplines, the most important literature and social studies, study of religions, anthropology, archaeology and history. The department hosts a number of time-limited collective research projects relevant to law and religion.
At the Faculty of Theology, law and religion features across individual projects and research agendas, including Protestant Legacies in Nordic Law, and the Faculty features the only professor in ecclesiastical law, jointly with the University of Roskilde, Lisbet Christoffersen.

Outside the universities, and with members across the church, academia and public administration, the Danish Society on Ecclesiastical Law (Selskab for Kirkeret) aims to promote canon law research and teaching in Denmark, to work for the dissemination of knowledge of canon law issues, arguments and canon law literature, and to work for increased information about church law and administration. On this website you can read more about the company’s activities, including publications, just as the site has a bibliographic section with references to relevant canon law material (Read more: here).

D 10 May 2022    ANiels Valdemar Vinding

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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