Conservative Christians excluded from support in Norwegian town Klepp


Northern Europe


Klepp's city council office. Photo Klepp

Organisations with a Christian view on relationships and sexuality will no longer receive money from the Norwegian municipality Klepp, Vartland reports.

Institutions are no longer allowed to refuse people certain positions of trust on the grounds of cohabitation, sexual orientation, gender or ethnicity if they want to qualify for the grants in the community on the southwest coast of Norway.

Thorbjørg Isafold Kristjansdottir (MDG, Greens) argues that the municipal council would otherwise recognise “attitudes that assert that some people are wrong” if the council would support organisations that do not allow cohabiting gays or women in certain positions.

Kolbjørn Sandve (SV, Socialist Left) believes that the requirement does not attack religious freedom. “People are free to believe what they want. But you cannot say that you are discriminated against when you yourself discriminate” other people.

The requirement of inclusion can be problematic for Christian organisations. They often maintain the view that marriage is only for men and women. Significantly youth organisations will be affected by the new legislation.

Against freedom of religion

Earlier, the municipal director, who initiated the proposal, decided to scrap it again. “Several conservative Christian organisations receive cultural support to conduct child and youth work. They should not be made responsible for adult’s theological views”, she said. Nevertheless, the conservative party put the proposal on the agenda again. The committee supported the proposal.

In the committee, only two parties, KrF (Christian Democrats) and FrP (Progress Party), voted against. Andrine Kallåk (KrF) finds it sad that a substantial majority voted in favour of the proposal. “I notice a lack of understanding that the legislation interferes with freedom of religion”, she says to IDag.

The Norwegian Minister of Culture, Anette Trettebergstuen from the Labour Party, supports the proposal. “I welcome all measures to prevent exclusion based on gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity”, she stated.

Ombudsman has doubts

However, the Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombudsman and the Christian Council of Norway are afraid that the restrictions interfere with religious freedom. Margrethe Sobstad from the Ombudsman asserts that religious communities have the right to differentiate based on gender or sexual orientation in specific cases.

“That type of discrimination is rooted in religious freedom and can sometimes be legal”, she says.

Sobstad argues, therefore, that the withdrawal of municipal support may therefore be problematic concerning religious freedom.

Aslak Tveita, pastor of Fokus Hverdagsmenighet at Klepp prayer house, stated that introducing the proposed criterion “is perceived as a punishment of theological directions that one does not like.”

Most Christian community

About a year ago, Klepp was chosen to be the "most Christian" municipality in Norway by the daily newspaper Vartland. The community has a cross in the official coat of arms. And above that, church goers and communion takers are the highest of the country. The southwestern region of Norway is also part of the traditional Bible Belt with a strong pietistic history.



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