The constitution states all individuals shall have the right to free exercise of their religion. The law further specifies the right of individuals to choose or change their religion. Any person over the age of 15 years has the right to join or leave a religious community. Parents have the right to decide their child’s religion before age 15, but must take into consideration the views of children once they reach the age of seven, and must give their views priority once they reach the age of 12.
A constitutional amendment separates the Church of Norway from the state, although the state continues financial support to the Church of Norway. The government does not appoint bishops, priests, or church clerks of the Church of Norway, but laws still regulate clerical salaries, and the government covers the cost of the benefit and pension plans of Church of Norway employees. Church of Norway staff will remain public employees until 2017.
The government provides financial support to all registered religious and lifestyle organizations, based on the number of members reported to the government. In order to register, a faith or lifestyle organization must notify the county governor and provide its creed and doctrine, activities, names of board members, names and responsibilities of group leaders, and operating rules, including who may become a member, voting rights, process for amending statutes, and process for dissolution. If a religious group does not register, it will not receive financial support from the government, but there are no restrictions on the organization’s activity.
The Norwegian Humanist Association is the largest lifestyle organization registered with the government.
The penal code covers violations of the right to religious freedom. It specifies penalties for expressions of disrespect for religious beliefs or members of religious groups, as well as for public discrimination on the basis of religion. The penalties may include a fine or imprisonment of up to six months.
In June parliament adopted the Act on Ritual Circumcision for Boys, requiring the procedure be conducted under the supervision of a licensed doctor.
The ombudsman for equality and anti-discrimination is charged with enforcing legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion. The ombudsman publishes non-binding findings in response to complaints that a person or organization has violated a law or regulation within the ombudsman’s mandate. The ombudsman also provides advice and guidance on anti-discrimination law.
Public schools offer a mandatory course on Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical Information (CKREE) for grades one through 10 (generally ages six to 16). CKREE reviews world religions and philosophies while promoting tolerance and respect for all religious beliefs, as well as for atheism. The Ministry of Education requires 55 percent of the CKREE course content be devoted to Christianity. Parents may request their children be exempted from participating in or performing specific religious acts, such as attending Christmas church services. The parents need not give a reason for requesting an exemption.
Individuals citing conscientious or other objection to registering for a year of military service may apply for a full exemption.
According to the law, the slaughter of an animal must be preceded by stunning or administering anesthetics, making kosher slaughter practices and some forms of halal meat preparation illegal.
Foreign religious workers are subject to the same visa and work permit requirements as other foreign workers.