Christian leaders fear proposed Denmark sermon law to root out Islamic extremism will harm all faiths

The Nyhavn canal, part of the Copenhagen, Denmark, Harbor and home to many bars and restaurants, is seen in this August 11, 2008 file photo.
The Nyhavn canal, part of the Copenhagen, Denmark, Harbor and home to many bars and restaurants, is seen in this August 11, 2008 file photo. | Reuters/Teis Hald Jensen/Files

Christian leaders in Denmark fear that a draft law aimed at monitoring the growth of Islamic extremism would restrict their religious freedom because it would require all sermons to be translated and submitted to the government.

The Danish government says the proposed law, which is scheduled to be reviewed this month in parliament, is required to curb Islamic extremism because imams in mosques deliver their sermons in Arabic, not Danish, according to La Croix International.

CBN News quoted sources as saying that churches had been included in the measure because Europe likes to be politically correct and cannot put restrictions only on mosques. There are about 270,000 Muslims in Denmark.

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The law would seek to “enlarge the transparency of religious events and sermons in Denmark when these are given in a language other than Danish,” according to The Guardian, which also reported that the Church of England’s bishop in Europe, Robert Innes, has expressed his concerns in a letter to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who’s from the Social Democratic Party.

“I am sure it comes from a genuine concern about the security of the estate and the monitoring of all religious minorities who might be perceived as a security risk,” Innes told the British newspaper. “I share the ambition of the Danish government to ensure safety and security and the desire that all religious organizations in Denmark conduct their act peacefully but to require translation of sermons into the national language goes too far. It goes in a concerning anti-liberal direction.”

Innes further explained that not all Christian clergy prepare the full text of their sermons and may prefer to write just some notes. “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.”

Thomas B. Mikkelsen, chairman of Evangelical Alliance Denmark, argued that “radical groups tend to establish themselves on the margins, in a parallel society, and never apply for official recognition. I do not think a new law will affect them in any way,” according to Evangelical Focus Europe.

“The law will have negative consequences for many religious groups, such as evangelicals, moderate Muslims, and other officially recognized communities who now have to spend time and money on translations,” Mikkelsen added. “I do not consider the law a direct breach of international standards on freedom of religion or belief, but it is still a significant step in the wrong direction.”

German-speaking churches, which have been using their language in churches for eight centuries in Denmark, are also concerned.

“There is much concern,” Rajah Scheepers, the main pastor of German-speaking St. Petri church in Copenhagen, was quoted as saying. “We do not only hold services on Sundays, but also baptisms, weddings and funerals, throughout the week. It is not realistic to expect that we simultaneously translate all these gatherings or that we translate them in advance.”

Roman Catholics are also opposed to the proposal.

“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... Something is happening here which is undermining democracy,” General Secretary of the Nordic Bishops Conference, Anna Mirijam Kaschne, was quoted as saying.

However, “there appears little likelihood of a Danish backlash, if this bill becomes law, because it affects so few citizens,” wrote the Rev. Ben Johnson, on Action Institute Powerblog.

“Nearly three out of every four Danes (72%) say religion is ‘not too’ or ‘not at all’ important in their lives,” Johnson, executive editor of the Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty journal, pointed out. “Only 68% of Danes who call themselves Christians believe in God, according to the Pew Research Center. Regular church attendance plummets to the single digits.”

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