Church/State Split in Norway?
Norway’s three-party coalition government looks set for another internal conflict on whether the church should be spun off from state control and almost complete state funding.Viewed superficially, it might seem that Christians would favor established religion, with the supposed advantages for the faith.
Last week’s meeting of the church hierarchy resulted in a move to separate church and state, although Norway’s evangelical Lutheran church would likely still rely heavily on state funding. Political rhetoric was already running high over the weekend about what this might mean, and whether a separation is a good idea.
The Center Party (Senterpartiet) doesn’t want any separation at all. Party leader Aslaug Haga contends that individual membership in the church “should be decided at the time of christening, not by the size of one’s wallet,” fearing that membership in the church will plummet if it depends on the payment of a fee.
The party leadership called for a continuation of the state church, but also an advisory referendum in which Norwegians could vote on the issue.
The party’s government partner SV (the Socialist Left Party), meanwhile, promotes separation of church and state, even though it won’t rule out a referendum.
The cabinet member in charge of church affairs, Trond Giske from the Labour Party, hasn’t taken a firm position but spoke warmly of the state church when the church leaders’ meeting opened last week.
In reality, the tradition of established religion is probably the main reason that Europe is so secular.
Just how corrupt this system can become is shown by a case in Denmark, when a pastor of the established Evangelical Lutheran Church publicly stated that he did not believe in God. He was suspended from his post, but then reinstated a few weeks later.