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Recognition of Minority Denominations in Denmark: Negotiations in Religion, Identity and Judicial Process

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The Constitution of Denmark of 1849 establishes the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the Church of Denmark, which “shall as such be supported by the State.” A handful of other denominations enjoyed recognition by royal decree until this practice was ended in 1970 with the new Marriage Act which allowed church weddings with civil validity to take place not only in the Church of Denmark but also in recognized denominations and other religious communities that obtain authorization from the Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs. In 1998 an expert committee was established to advise the Minister on applications for denominational recognition. The committee consisted of myself, a historian of religions and chairman, sociologist of religion Ole Riis, later replaced by Margit Warburg, Church historian Jørgen Stenbæk, later replaced by Per Ingesman and professor of law Eva Smith, later replaced by Jens Elo Rytter. In the fall of 2007, a cabinet reorganization in the Liberal-Conservative Government led to a reorganization of the legal body responsible for the recognition of minority denominations. Thus the judicial process, including the expert committee, was transferred to the Department of Justice under the Section of Family Affairs. Since 2014, jurisdiction is under the Ministry of Child, Equality, Integration and Social Affairs, Permanent Under-Secretarial Department, Office of Family Affairs. This paper will describe the judicial and pragmatic aspects of our deliberations. Furthermore, a few key cases will be described which demonstrate how the recognition process sometimes influences the negotiation of religious identity among applicant denominations.

Affiliations: 1: Aarhus UniversityDepartment of Culture and SocietySection for the Study of ReligionJens Chr. Skous Vej 38000 Aarhus C,


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