Danish churches wary of potential for gov't intrusion

Thursday, February 11, 2021
 | 
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

pastor at pulpit

Churches are fearing that they will be forced to submit their sermons to the Danish government – if or when a proposed law is passed.

Numerous faith-based news outlets report that the controversial legislation, backed by Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, would demand that any sermon not delivered in Denmark's native tongue be translated and submitted to government officials.

Many Christians across Denmark, including Anglican Bishop Robert Innes of the European diocese, are outraged and concerned about the proposed law – even though it is said to be primarily aimed at quarter of a million Muslims living in the country.

"I believe this overly restrictive step would constitute a limitation on freedom of expression, which I know is prized in Denmark, as one of the world's oldest democracies," Innes wrote Frederiksen in a letter Jan. 27.

Days letter, he told The Guardian that it "would be a very worrying development indeed [if the bill passes and other nations duplicate it]."

The bishop went on to note that the legislation has problematic implications, especially if the government demands sermons that are extemporaneously delivered by pastors.

"Preachers don't always write full text of their sermons – they might write notes," Innes explained. "They might preach extempore as the archbishop of Canterbury sometimes does, and there are questions of idiom and nuance, which requires a high level of skill in translation, of course. It is a high bar. It is a skilled art, and it is an expensive skill, as well."

Denmark shares it southern border with Germany. Consequently, sermons in many Danish churches are delivered in German, including those by the pastor of Copenhagen's St. Petri Church, Rajah Scheepers.

"We do not only hold services on Sundays, but also baptisms, weddings and funerals, throughout the week," Scheepers, explained to Evangelical Focus. "It is not realistic to expect that we simultaneously translate all these gatherings or that we translate them in advance. There is much concern."

In addition to Anglican and evangelical churches, Catholic churches are also deeply concerned that religious freedom will be violated by the proposed law.

"All church congregations, free church congregations, Jewish congregations, everything we have here in Denmark – 40 different religious communities – will be placed under general suspicion by this law," Anna Mirijam Kaschner, the general secretary and spokeswoman of the Nordic Bishops' Conference, asserted in the National Catholic Reporter. "Something is happening here which is undermining democracy."

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