A proposed Danish law that would require sermons be translated and submitted to the government has sparked concern among Christians throughout the region.
The proposed legislation would require that all sermons not delivered in the country’s native language be translated into Danish and submitted to the government, although it is not clear yet if the sermons must be submitted before or after they are delivered. The bill has the backing of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
Although the legislation is intended to control radical Muslim groups in the country – more than 250,000 Muslims live in Denmark – it has drawn pushback from many Christians.
Anglican Bishop Robert Innes of the European diocese wrote a letter to Frederiksen Jan. 27, expressing concern over the proposal's impact on religious liberty.
“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,” he wrote.
Innes told The Guardian newspaper he fears that other countries may copy the bill if it is adopted.
“That would be a very worrying development indeed,” he said.
The proposal also has practical problems, the bishop said, arguing it is not feasible to translate a weekly sermon delivered extemporaneously.
“Preachers don’t always write full text of their sermons, they might write notes,” Innes said. “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.”
“We do not only hold services on Sundays, but also baptisms, weddings and funerals, throughout the week,” said Rajah Scheepers, who serves as pastor of St. Petri church in Copenhagen. “It is not realistic to expect that we simultaneously translate all these gatherings or that we translate them in advance.”
Scheepers said, “There is much concern.”
Catholic churches, too, oppose the idea. Anna Mirijam Kaschner, general secretary and spokeswoman of the Nordic bishops' conference, said the proposed law would harm religious liberty.
"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,” she said, according to the National Catholic Reporter. “... Something is happening here which is undermining democracy.”
Photo courtesy: Ben White/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.