The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and protects the right to choose and practice or change one’s religion. The hate crime law punishes expressions of disrespect for religious beliefs, and the government effected its first conviction under that law, but it rescinded an anti‑blasphemy provision from the penal code. The government took custody of five children of a Pentecostal family on abuse charges due to spanking, which is illegal. According to the family’s attorney, the parents admitted to spanking their children but said the seizure was based on anti‑religious bias. The government provided security at Jewish facilities in Oslo and financially supported programs to combat anti‑Semitism and increase religious tolerance. Religion and state are separate, and the government proceeded with public hearings on the transition of the Church of Norway, an evangelical Lutheran church, from state church to self‑standing entity. However, it continued to provide certain benefits solely to the Church of Norway. The government also provided financial support to other religious and philosophical communities. The Norwegian Center against Racism, a nongovernment organization (NGO), criticized the police for what it said was a failure to take seriously reports of hate crimes against Muslims.
The Jewish community voiced concern about continued anti‑Semitic attitudes that it said were primarily evident in the press. In September the Jewish community launched a government‑financed national sensitivity campaign targeted at high school students. Members of the Muslim community organized a “peace ring” around the synagogue in Oslo in February in a show of solidarity with the Jewish community. The Norwegian Center against Racism said hate speech was on the rise, particularly on the internet. NGOs and press editorialists continued to express concern that extremist views had increased among second‑generation immigrants from Muslim countries. A number of NGOs sponsored programs to combat anti‑Semitism and increase interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
U.S. embassy staff met with officials from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development for discussions centered on the public financing mechanism for faith and philosophical groups defined in law as “life‑stance” organizations, as well as the process and complexities involved in fully separating the Church of Norway from the government. Embassy representatives also met with faith groups, NGOs, and media on issues regarding the separation of church and state and interfaith dialogue. The embassy provided a support grant for and participated in a religious and ethnic tolerance forum in October. The embassy hosted religious celebrations with members of different faith communities, government officials, and NGOs to promote religious tolerance and understanding.