| Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
Norway has a population of 4.9 million people. Citizens are assumed to be members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church unless they explicitly state otherwise. An estimated 79 percent of the population belongs to the state church. However actual attendance is very low. Fifty five percent of the people that do not belong to the Lutheran Church belong to another Christian denomination. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest in this group, followed by the Pentecostal Church. There are 126 mosques in Norway, with a membership of 93,000 in the Muslim community. Membership in the Jewish community has declined to only 818 members. Less than five percent of the population is Buddhist, Orthodox Christian, Sikhs, or Hindu. The Norwegian Humanist Association is the largest organized group for people who do not practice any religion, and it has a membership of 81,000 people.
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Norway recognizes the right of all inhabitants of the kingdom to free exercise of religion while at the same time declaring that the Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the state. As such, the church is financially supported by the state and enjoys certain benefits over other churches. It is constitutionally mandated that the king and a majority of the members of the Council of State belong to the state church. The Workers Protection and Working Environment Act permits prospective employers in private or religious schools to ask applicants if they respect Christian principles and beliefs. The Constitution states that all inhabitants professing the Evangelical-Lutheran religion are bound by law to bring their children up in that faith. Religious instruction in the state religion is provided in all public schools, but children of other faiths may be exempted upon request.
While freedom of religion is protected by the Norwegian Constitution, occasionally the law conflicts with this. For example, it is illegal to kill an animal for slaughter without either stunning it or administering anesthetics. This conflicts with both Kosher and Halal requirements. On this issue, he Muslim community accepted a compromise with the government while the Jewish community has to import Kosher meats.
There have been a number of hate crimes attributed to religious motivation. In 2009, of the 240 registered hate crimes, 21 were reported to be motivated by religious intolerance. These statistics have risen since 2008. There is an issue with these numbers because people often do not report crimes. After a 2009 study conducted by the police, it was estimated that two percent of the population had been involved in a religious hate crime.
The 2010 US State Department Report on Human Rights states that denominations other than the Lutheran Church operate freely. Government registration of religious communities is not required. A religious organization may and must register only if it is seeking state support which is given in proportion to the membership of the religious community. Workers belonging to faiths other than the state religion are allowed leave for religious holidays.
Constitutional amendments have been proposed to increase the separation of church and state, and to democratize the Lutheran church. Parliament has not yet made any decisions on the proposed amendments.
Presently, the state church speaks out against a variety of new religious movements.
2010 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Norway
Norway - New World Encyclopedia
Norway Country Profile- BBC News