U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2004 - Denmark

Released by the U.S. Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on September 15, 2004, covers the period from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the state church and enjoys some privileges not available to other faiths.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 16,639 square miles, and its population is approximately 5.4 million. As of January 2002, 84.3 percent of the population belonged to the official Evangelical Lutheran Church. Although only about 3 percent of the church members attend services regularly, most church members utilize the church for weddings, funerals, baptisms, confirmations, and religious holidays.

The second largest religious community is Muslim, constituting approximately 3 percent of the population (170,000 persons), followed by communities of Catholics (35,000), Jehovah's Witnesses (15,000), Jews (7,000), Baptists (5,500), Pentecostals (5,000), and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) (4,500). There are also many communities with fewer than 3,000 members, including Seventh-day Adventists, the Catholic Apostolic Church, the Salvation Army, Methodists, Anglicans, and Russian Orthodox. The German minority in southern Jutland and other non-Danish communities (particularly Scandinavian groups) have their own religious communities. Approximately 5.4 percent of the population is not religious, and approximately 1.5 percent is atheist.

Missionaries operate within the country, including representatives of the Mormons and members of Jehovah's Witnesses. The European headquarters of the Church of Scientology is located in Copenhagen, although it is not officially recognized as a religion. In November, the indigenous belief system known as Forn Sidr, which worships the old Norse gods, was recognized officially as a religion.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

There is an official state religion. The Constitution stipulates that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the national church, the reigning monarch shall be a member of it, and the state shall support it. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the only religious organization that can receive state subsidies or funds directly through the tax system. Approximately 12 percent of the Church's revenue comes from state subsidy; most of the rest comes from the church tax that is paid only by members. No individual may be compelled to pay church tax or provide direct financial support to the national church or any other religious organization. Members of other faiths, notably Catholics, have argued that the system is unfair, and that the Government does not provide religious equality, despite providing religious freedom. Allowing other religious organizations to be given the same status and privileges as the Evangelical Lutheran Church would require changes to the Constitution. According to a poll conducted in the fall of 2003, 63 percent of citizens feel that the Evangelical Lutheran Church should have a special place in the Constitution, down from 68 percent in 1999.

Eleven Christian holidays are considered national holidays: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Easter Monday, Common Prayer Day, Ascension, Pentecost, Whit Monday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Christmas Day 2. The holidays do not have a negative impact on any religious groups.

Aside from the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Government gives official status to religions in two ways: it "recognizes" religions by royal decree, and it "approves" religions under the 1969 Marriage Act. As of March, 12 religious organizations were recognized by royal decree, including: The Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and Russian Orthodox churches as well as Judaism, and 92 were approved, including several Islamic groups, members of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christian Orthodox, Hindu, Baha'i, and Hara Krishna. By "approving" religions under the 1969 Marriage Act, the Government allows individually named priests to conduct officially recognized marriage ceremonies and thereby legally "approves" the religion.

Both recognized and approved religions enjoy certain tax exemptions. Other religious communities are entitled to practice their faith without any sort of licensing, but their marriage ceremonies are not recognized by the state and they are not granted tax-exempt status.

Guidelines, published in 1999, for approval of religious organizations established the following for religious organizations: a written text of the religion's central traditions, descriptions of its most important rituals, an organizational structure accessible for public control and approval, and constitutionally elected representatives who may be held responsible by the authorities. Additionally, the organization must "not teach or perform actions inconsistent with public morality or order." Scientologists did not seek official approval as a religious organization during the period covered by this report. Their first application for approval was made in the early 1970s and rejected; the second and third applications were made in 1976 and 1982 and both were denied. In mid-1997, the Scientologists filed a fourth application, which was suspended at their request in 2000. In suspending their application, the Scientologists asked the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs to clarify the approval procedure; however, the Ministry told the Scientologists they must first submit an application before the Ministry can provide any feedback. Despite the Scientologist's unofficial status, the church maintains its European headquarters in Copenhagen.

There are no restrictions on proselytizing or missionary work so long as practitioners obey the law and do not act inconsistently with public morality or order. All schools, including religious schools, receive government financial support. While the Evangelical Lutheran faith is taught in the public schools, a student may withdraw from religious classes with parental consent. Under Section 76 of the Constitution, the rights of parents to home school or educate their children in private schools are protected.

During the period covered by the report, the Government considered legislative and administrative proposals to promote further social integration of refugees and immigrants. The proposals emerged out of widespread political and social attitudes favoring the integration of immigrants and refugees. One bill, being debated by the Parliament, is the so-called "Imam Law." If approved, the law would require religious leaders to be self-supporting, speak Danish, and respect "Western values" such as democracy and the equality of women to be approved to perform marriage ceremonies and keep their residency permits. Although it would affect all religious faiths, it is widely acknowledged to be aimed at preventing radical Islamic clerics from immigrating to the country, living off the welfare system, and inciting Muslims to reject Western culture and values. The Government, the Government's far-right ally, the Danish People's Party, as well as the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, backed the proposal. However, much of the religious community was against the proposed changes. Two religious umbrella organizations, the Danish Mission Council (with 34 member organizations) and the Danish Churches' Consultation (with 11 member organizations), which together represent such groups as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists and Catholics, criticized the proposal as a violation of religious freedom. The bill had not been voted on at the time of publication.

The Ministry for Refugees, Immigrants, and Integration also considered providing resources to establish schools to educate imams, similar to the support the Government provides Christian theological university programs or seminaries. Reaction to the proposal in the Muslim community was mixed. Many young Muslims said that the imams who come to the country on temporary visas do not speak Danish and cannot answer their questions or address the problems of being a young Muslim in the country. However, the Ministry declined to act on the initiative, choosing to wait until the country's divided Muslim community could organize to make its own proposal for publicly funded Islamic education.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

The problems the Muslim community encountered in building the first Muslim cemetery in the country appeared to be resolved during the period covered by this report. In 2001, the Broendby municipality decided to buy the piece of land chosen for the cemetery from the Copenhagen municipality. Broendby estimated the land was worth about $161,000 (1 million Danish kroner). Municipal authorities believed it was worth about $3.5 million (21.5 million Danish kroner). A commission was established to determine the value, but for 2 years was unable to come to an agreement. In May the case was referred to an appraisal commission, which in June declared the value of the land to be approximately $323,000 (2 million kroner). After a meeting of the Copenhagen City Council economic committee, Lord Mayor Jens Kramer Mikkelsen announced that the land owned in Broendby would be sold to the Broendby municipal government for an expected sum of approximately $323,000 (2 million kroner). The land is expected to be resold to the Danish-Islamic Cemetary Fund for the same amount. A number of Christian cemeteries all around the country have set aside special sections for Muslim burials; however, conditions in these did not meet all of the Islamic religious requirements.

The Muslim community also attempted to identify a site and funding for the construction of a mosque in the country at the end of the period covered by this report. Financing, location and other issues remained unresolved within the Muslim community.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Abuses by Terrorist Organizations

There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The country has a long history of welcoming religious minorities and affording them equal treatment. There are generally amicable relations between religious groups, although the influx of a substantial Muslim population over the last several years has resulted in some tension between Muslims and the rest of the population. Minority group unemployment tends to be higher, and allegations sometimes are raised of discrimination on the basis of religion. However, it is difficult to separate religious differences from differences in language and ethnicity, and the latter may be equally important in explaining unequal access to well-paying jobs and social advancement. The integration of immigrant groups from Islamic countries is an important political and social topic of discussion.

There were isolated incidents of anti-Semitism, primarily by immigrants. Most involved vandalism, such as graffiti on a synagogue's walls, or nonviolent verbal assaults, such as young men of an Arab background shouting at a rabbi. There were also isolated incidents of anti-immigrant graffiti and low-level assaults as well as some denial of service and hiring on racial grounds. The Government criticized the incidents, investigated several, and brought some cases to trial.

In May, the Justice Minister was under pressure from several parties in Parliament (the Christian Democrats, Social Liberals, Social Democrats, and Danish People's Party) to outlaw the Danish branch of the international Muslim organization Hizb ut-Tahrir for extremist behavior, including alledgedly issuing threats and recruiting school children. In October 2002, the spokesman for the Danish branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir was sentenced to a 60-day probation for distributing pamphlets calling for the murder of all Jews. The Justice Minister said she would not rule out a ban but had no legal justification to take action. The political parties encouraged her to use a section of the Constitution that allows the Government to temporarily ban an organization while it simultaneously refers the case to the courts to determine whether the group can be legally banned for violence or inciting violence. The issue had not been resolved at the end of the period covered by this report.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. It also reaches out to immigrant communities on broader issues. For example, the U.S. Ambassador has met with religious and community leaders from Middle Eastern and Turkish backgrounds on religious and cultural diversity, democracy and freedom, Muslim life in the United States, and condolences over terrorist acts. The Department of State has also sponsored Muslim citizens for international visitors programs. Embassy officers maintain contact with some key religious minority groups and representatives.

In addition, the U.S. Embassy has supported a number of programs to combat anti-Semitism, such as sponsorship of a documentary film on the saving of the Jewish victims during World War II, facilitation of the nomination of Denmark for the Lyndon B. Johnson Moral Courage Award for the country's actions to save Jewish persons in WWII, and coordination of Holocaust education policy.


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