eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà

2018

  • November 2018 : Row over municipal pastor

Presenting its proposed budget for 2019 in November, the city council of the municipality of Kongsberg suggested creating a new position for a “municipal pastor”, to work across different municipal sectors, focusing in particular on mental health, youth work, ethical issues, counselling and healthcare. The proposal is controversial because it comes shortly after the much-publicized separation of the church and the State in Norway. It has been met with criticism from opposition parties in the municipality, the Norwegian Humanist Association, and the leadership of the local mosque.

  • November 2018 : Increased promotion of freedom of religion or belief internationally

On November 12th, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide hosted a conference on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief as a priority in Norwegian human rights work at the international level. During the conference, the minister announced a significant financial contribution to this work, promising a yearly expenditure of NOK 80 mill. (approx. EUR 8 mill.). The funds will support the political work of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for the promotion of the Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) and work on the ground in a number of countries worldwide by NGOs like the Stefanus Alliance International, Open Doors and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

  • November 2018 : Religious discrimination and handshake cases

In November, the recently reformed Board on Discrimination issued its decisions in two complaints of discrimination lodged by a claimant who claimed to have suffered religious discrimination under the new Equality and Anti-Discrimination Law, which entered into force in 2018. According to the complaints, the claimant had been discriminated against by employees of NAV (the Norwegian Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration) and Oslo Municipality when he lost his work placement contract at a school in Oslo because he refused to shake hands with women for religious reasons.

In the case against Oslo Municipality, the Discrimination Board determined in a split decision (3-2) that the termination of his work placement contract did not constitute discrimination because refusing to shake hands with women was not “central” to his religious beliefs, and because his right to manifest his religion or belief was legitimately limited by the rights of others to equality and non-discrimination.

In the case against NAV, the Discrimination Board determined in a joint, split decision (4-1 and 3-2) that both the verbal treatment of the claimant by NAV employees and the decision by NAV to cut his benefits on the basis of his refusal to shake hands with women constituted unlawful discrimination on the basis of his religion.

  • October 2018 : Conscientious objection of medical practitioners

On October 11th, the Supreme Court decided a case on the termination of a general medical practitioner agreement between Sauherad municipality in the South-West of Norway and a doctor who refused to insert contraceptive intrauterine devices (IUDs) for conscientious reasons.

The highly anticipated decision found in favor of the doctor, not because the contract termination violated her right to conscientious objection, but because the municipality had known about her observation while entering into the agreement. Notably, the decision, which was written by former European Court of Human Rights judge Erik Møse, featured an extensive obiter dictum, in which the right of women to access health services was found to be a legitimate limitation of the right of freedom of religion or belief under article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  • August 2018 : Ban on full-face garments in higher education enters into effect

On August 1st, § 7-9 of the Act relating to universities and university colleges entered into force, prohibiting the wearing of garments that cover the face, either in part or in full, while taking part in education in universities or university colleges. Students violating the ban can be expelled, while staff can be fired. Although the ban was hotly debated before being passed into law, no cases have so far been recorded.

  • February 2018 : Parliament sets aside special funds for the education of religious leaders

At the end of 2017, the Norwegian parliament set aside a special, annual allotment of NOK 5 million (approx. EUR 520 000) for the Faculty of theology at the University of Oslo, to “establish an official, Norwegian education for religious leaders”. The faculty will develop its studies over the following years along two tracks in order to fulfill this task : one track will provide students with training in Islamic theology, the other track will provide students from a range of religious traditions with a master’s degree in counselling and other religious leader-related tasks.

D 11 décembre 2018    AHelge Årsheim

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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