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U.S. Department of State
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999

Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC, September 9, 1999


Section I. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government respects this right in practice.

There is an official state religion. The Constitution stipulates that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the national church, and it is subsidized by the Government. However, no individual can be compelled to pay tax or provide financial support to the national church or any other religious organization. By 1969 11 other religious organizations had official recognition by royal decree (essentially the State's permission for a religious organization to perform religious ceremonies, for example, weddings, which have civil validity).

Since the implementation of the 1969 Marriage Act, the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs has granted permission to clergy of 60 additional, nonrecognized religious organizations to perform marriages. The Marriage Act permits weddings to be performed "within other religious organizations," provided that one of the parties to the marriage belongs to the organization and the organization has clergy that have been granted permission to perform marriage by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Thus religious organizations no longer need to obtain "recognition" as "approval" is given when the Ministry grants permission to perform weddings to specific religious organizations. Both recognized and approved religions enjoy certain tax exemptions. The approval process is not complicated or protracted.

In February 1998, the Government appointed an independent four-member council to prepare guidelines and principles for official approval of religious organizations. The government statement accompanying the action noted that the step was taken due to the growing number of applications in recent years for official approval as a religious organization.

In March 1999, the Council published guidelines for future approval of religious organizations that are linked to the 1969 Marriage Act. The guidelines establish clear requirements that religious organizations must fulfill, including providing 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 can be held responsible by authorities. Additionally, the organization must "not teach or perform actions inconsistent with public morality or order."

Scientologists continue to seek official approval as a religious organization. Their first application for approval was made in the early 1980's and rejected; the second application was made in mid-1997 and withdrawn in early 1998. Subsequently, it was resubmitted to the four-member council where it was being evaluated at the end of the period covered by this report.

Over 86 percent of the population adheres to the Evangelical Lutheran Church; it is the only church that receives government funds. Other religious organizations represent approximately 5 percent of the population, with Muslims, the next largest group, accounting for 2 percent of the population. The remaining 9 percent of the citizens are without a religion.

There are missionaries operating within the country, including representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses; however, there is no detailed information available on missionary activity. There are no restrictions on proselytizing so long as proselytizers 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.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

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

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Denmark has a long history of welcoming religious minorities and affording them equal treatment. There are generally amicable relations between religious groups, although the recent influx of a substantial Muslim population has resulted in some tension with the majority population of adherents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minority group unemployment tends to be higher, and allegations of discrimination on the basis of religion sometimes are raised. However, it is difficult to separate religious differences from differences in language and ethnicity, and the latter may be at least as important in explaining unequal access to well-paying jobs and social advancement. There are no significant ecumenical movements that promote greater mutual understanding and religious tolerance.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy worked together with the Government to promote religious freedom throughout the world as part of a global effort to support human rights.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 11-09-1999