Christian churches in Denmark will be required to translate and submit all sermons to the government, under a proposed law set to be debated in parliament later this month.
The measure, which the Danish government says is necessary to curb the growth of Islamic extremism, will cast a broad net and affect Christian churches due to fears of appearing Islamophobic or politically incorrect in the application.
Robert Innes, the Church of England’s bishop in Europe, has written to the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, expressing his concern over what he describes as an “overly restrictive” bind on freedom.
“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 said, according to The Guardian. “I share the ambition of the Danish government to ensure safety and security and the desire that all religious organisations 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.
“In a democratic society, I would hope the government would strive for better cooperation with religious organisations than hastily resorting to legislation interfering with their freedoms.
“This is a first which is why it is so important we find a way to address and encourage the Danish government to find another solution. Because my real concern is that if the Danes do it other countries may copy. That would be a very worrying development indeed.”
Innes went on to say, “Preachers don’t always write full text of their sermons, they might write 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.”
The legislation has been opposed by a number of church leaders in Denmark, with many writing to the Danish government outlining their concerns.
In a letter published in the Christian national daily newspaper in Denmark, leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church warned, “We are risking that the Danish State neglects the recognition of non-Danish speaking congregations as being part of the ecclesiastical and cultural life of Denmark. It would cause great harm, should the many Danish congregations abroad face similar action from foreign states. Passing the bill would furthermore damage the reputation of Denmark in the rest of the world.”
General Secretary of the Nordic Bishops Conference, Anna Mirijam Kaschne, was quoted as saying, ““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.”
Rajah Scheepers, pastor of St Petri church in Copenhagen said, “There is much concern. 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.”
European churches have also expressed their concern about the proposed law, including the Lutheran World Federation, the Roman Catholic Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and the Conference of European Churches.