OSLO – Norway, which is one of few developed countries to still have a state religion, passed a final hurdle Thursday to separate the Protestant Lutheran Church from the state, parliament said.
The move, which requires changes to Norway’s constitution, was approved by parliament a second time Thursday, in what was a formality after lawmakers voted through with overwhelming support on Monday, with 161 votes in favour and just three opposing votes.
When parliamentarians were asked to confirm that result on Thursday, “no one was opposed,” parliament spokesman Torodd Noreng told AFP, pointing out that this meant the initial vote was confirmed and parliament would begin making the necessary changes to the constitution.
The change will officially come into effect on June 15, Noreng said.
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Everyone in Norway seems to be happy with the new arrangement.
“The Evangelical Lutheran religion will no longer be the state’s official religion,” parliament wrote in a statement, pointing out that the church would receive public financing “on par with other religious and belief-based societies.”
It stressed though that “the Norwegian Church will continue to have a special basis in the constitution and the state will be built upon ‘our Christian and humanistic heritage’.”
The Norwegian Church, which supported the change, counts nearly four million of Norway’s 4.7 million inhabitants as members.
In practice, the change will give the Church the authority to name its own bishops and deans, without having to bow to the government’s final say on such issues, as the situation stands today.
The current requirement for at least half of all government ministers to be members of the Church will also be scrapped, and even the minister of church affairs will no longer need to belong to the church.
The royal family will however still be required to belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.