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Legal framework

The Church Law

The Church Act (1996) is the most recent iteration of the ecclesiastical legislation regulating the structure and competencies of the Church of Norway that was first introduced with the 1537 (...)

The Church Act (1996) is the most recent iteration of the ecclesiastical legislation regulating the structure and competencies of the Church of Norway that was first introduced with the 1537 Church Ordinance. Unlike the Act on Faith Communities of 1969, the Church Act contains detailed regulations on the internal structure and governing bodies of the Church. Chapter 1 of the Act sets out the rules and provisions of membership and the overarching structure of the church. Chapter 2 sets out the regulation of parishes, which, unlike the church, have legal personality. Chapter 3 concerns the administration of church buildings and mandates the presence of one church in each parish (§17). Chapter 4 establishes the roles and regulations of regional and national governing bodies, while chapter 5 details various regulations. The Church Act is currently (2016) under revision to better reflect the constitutional amendments separating church and state since 2012.

D 16 September 2016    AHelge Årsheim

The Act on Faith Communities

The Act on Faith Communities (1969) replaced the Law on Christian Dissenters (1845), and stipulates the rules of establishment of faith communities, who can join, and the legal competences (...)

The Act on Faith Communities (1969) replaced the Law on Christian Dissenters (1845), and stipulates the rules of establishment of faith communities, who can join, and the legal competences admitted to faith communities. § 1 of the Act provides that everyone can establish faith communities, as long as “rights and seemliness” are not violated by such establishment, a requirement that is further sharpened in § 13 to “rights and morals” for faith communities that wish to obtain official registration. § 3 sets the age limit for joining or leaving a faith community at 15, while § 5 specifies that children automatically belong to the faith community of their parents. § 14 outlines the requirements for registration, including an application specifying “declaration of faith and teachings”. §§ 18-27a sets out the competencies of registered faith communities, including the right to financial support, access to burial grounds and rules for religious leaders.

D 16 September 2016    AHelge Årsheim

Constitution

Following amendments in 2012, article 2 of the Constitution no longer establishes the Evangelical Lutheran faith as the official religion of Norway. The current version, however, stipulates that, (...)

Following amendments in 2012, article 2 of the Constitution no longer establishes the Evangelical Lutheran faith as the official religion of Norway. The current version, however, stipulates that, “Our values will remain our Christian and humanist heritage”. The unclear scope of this formulation has been repeatedly pointed out following the amendments. Article 16 of the amended constitution secures the religious freedom of all citizens and pronounces that the Church of Norway (CON) “will remain the Established Church of Norway”, and is eligible for financial support, which is also admitted to all other faith communities on an equal footing.

D 16 September 2016    AHelge Årsheim

The status of the Church of Norway

Amendments introduced in 2012 removed the constitutional foundations of the Church of Norway (CON) as an official, public body. While the CON was never technically subject to constitutional (...)

Amendments introduced in 2012 removed the constitutional foundations of the Church of Norway (CON) as an official, public body. While the CON was never technically subject to constitutional regulation, it acted as a de facto state church by taking on the role of custodian of the Evangelical Lutheran faith, which was upheld as the official religion of the nation in the former article 2 of the constitution. The scope of the amended version of article 16 of the Constitution, under which the CON “will remain the established Church of Norway” has not been properly clarified, and the consequences of the constitutional amendments are presently still being worked out (2016). In this process, the future legal personality of the CON and the question of singular or separate legislative frameworks for the CON and all other religious communities are among the more contentious issues still to be resolved.

D 16 September 2016    AHelge Årsheim

Legal Regulation of Religion in Norway

The legal status of religious organizations in Norway is regulated in the 1814 Constitution, the 1969 Act on Faith Communities and the 1996 Church Act. Following constitutional amendments in (...)

The legal status of religious organizations in Norway is regulated in the 1814 Constitution, the 1969 Act on Faith Communities and the 1996 Church Act. Following constitutional amendments in 2012, article 16 of the Constitution stipulates that the Church of Norway (CON), “remains the people’s Church, and will as such be supported by the State”, and secures equal per capita remuneration for other religious or belief communities. The Church Act and the Act on Faith Communities specify the rules and regulations pertaining to the CON and other faith communities respectively, ranging from the nature of their legal personality to their various rights and privileges.

D 16 September 2016    AHelge Årsheim

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