Humanists call on Norway to make constitution more inclusive

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 3 October 2019

Norway’s constitutional assertions of national Christian values and the privileged position of the church “send a signal of exclusion”, humanists have told the United Nations.

In a joint statement at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists International and Human-Etisk Forbund, the Norwegian Humanist Association have called on Norway to amend its constitution, to bring it into alignment with international norms on the right to freedom of religion or belief.

Ina Nygård Mossin, Norwegian Humanist Association

During a review of Norway’s human rights record as part of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Norwegian Humanist Association’s Senior International Adviser, Ina Nygård Mossin, pointed out that some articles in the Constitution emphasise the state’s Christian values, place the Church of Norway in a privileged position and demand that the king shall adhere to the Lutheran faith.

Mossin said, “Amidst rising diversity, and in an increasingly polarized political climate, we are worried that these provisions send a signal of exclusion, and may lead to discrimination, or undermine the long-standing tradition of equal treatment.

“We request the government of Norway to amend these articles and to include the right to freedom of religion or belief into the human rights chapter of the Constitution, to bring it in line with international and European human rights law.”

Mossin also welcomed Norway’s abolition of the anti-blasphemy law, as an example of good practice.

However, she also drew attention to atheist asylum seekers from countries where apostasy is punishable by death who have recently been denied asylum in Norway.

Mossin urged, “We strongly encourage Norway to ensure equal treatment of all minorities, including the non-religious, and base all asylum decisions on updated knowledge.”

Recent surveys have suggested that non-religious Norwegians now outnumber traditional religious believers.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a state-driven process based on the principle of peer review. Every member state of the UN is reviewed on their human rights situations by the other members and those member states can recommend changes that are needed to uphold human rights in each country. Each country is assessed every five years. So far there has been a 100% participation rate, making it the only universal mechanism of its kind.

The statement by Humanists International and the Norwegian Humanist Association follows in full below:


42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (9th – 27th September 2019)
Universal Periodic Review: Norway
Speaker: Ina Nygård Mossin

I am a representative of the Norwegian Humanist Association and deliver this statement on behalf of my organisation and Humanists International.

We would firstly like to warmly welcome, since its last review, Norway’s abolishment of the anti-blasphemy provision of its Criminal Code, on 29th May 2015.

Blasphemy laws protect ideas, not people, and in so doing threaten the very underpinnings of the human rights framework. By repealing the anti-blasphemy provision, Norway provides an example of good practice we urge other states to replicate.

However, we would like to call the attention of Norway and that of the Council to some remaining problems pertaining to the constitutional protection of freedom of religion or belief in Norway. Articles 2, 4 and 16 of the Constitution emphasise the state’s Christian values, demand that the king shall adhere to the Lutheran faith and places the Church of Norway in a privileged position.

Amidst rising diversity, and in an increasingly polarized political climate, we are worried that these provisions send a signal of exclusion, and may lead to discrimination, or undermine the long-standing tradition of equal treatment. We request the government of Norway to amend these articles and to include the right to freedom of religion or belief into the human rights chapter of the Constitution, to bring it in line with international and European human rights law.

Lastly, we take this opportunity to bring up our concern that atheist asylum seekers from countries where apostasy is punishable by death have recently been denied asylum in Norway. We strongly encourage Norway to ensure equal treatment of all minorities, including the non-religious, and base all asylum decisions on updated knowledge.

Thank you for your attention.


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