COPENHAGEN, Denmark (ChurchMilitant.com) - Churches in Denmark are warning that a proposed law intended to curb extremist Muslim preaching could severely restrict freedom of religion and financially cripple churches.
The "Law on Sermons in Languages Other Than Danish," to be debated in the Danish Parliament in February, would require all sermons preached in foreign languages to be translated into Danish and submitted to the State for approval.
Denmark's socialist government argues that the law, targeted at imams preaching in Arabic, is meant "to create greater openness about the preaching of religious preachers in Denmark when they preach in languages other than Danish."
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Catholic Church in the European Union (COMECE), said the bishops understood that the law was intended "to prevent radicalization and counter incitement to hatred and terrorism."
However, "Any negative or discriminatory impact should be avoided with regard to churches and religious communities that are averse and alien to such actions, acting in a spirit of peace and integration," the cardinal stressed.
In comments to Church Militant, Islam historian Robert Spencer explained how "Secular Turkey did this [in mosques] for decades for the same reason, until President Erdogan began his campaign of re-Islamization."
Spencer agreed that "the intent behind this measure is clear: to monitor sermons in mosques and prevent jihad preaching."
"However, to include all religious bodies when no others are preaching religion-based violence against unbelievers manifests the Danish Parliament's cowardice and refusal to face the real source of the problem. Unless and until it does so, that problem will persist," the distinguished scholar warned.
The cost of translating sermons for the nation's non-Danish-speaking congregations will be a staggering 37.4 million Danish krone ($6,069,589) per year, the Danish National Church's Interchurch Council estimated.
Catholic bishop of Copenhagen Czeslaw Kozon said that the law would make no difference to the "most radical Muslim groups" who "are not recognized and do not want to be, which means they would not have to abide by the rules."
"For priests who do not have enough knowledge of Danish, this would be a real problem, and for everyone else a waste of time" and "financial resources for translation," he continued.
"The law would be an erosion of freedom of religion because part of what constitutes freedom is the ability to use a language people understand," remarked Kozon, a strong supporter of the Latin Mass.
The diocese of Copenhagen released figures stating that at least 12 language groups regularly celebrate Masses in their own language in the country's capital. Masses are also held at least once a month in Ukrainian, Croatian, Chaldean, French, Spanish and Italian.
The working and middle-class parish of Sankt Annæ on the densely populated island of Amager welcomes Catholics from Poland, Africa, East Asia, India and the Middle East. A large Filipino community attends the 5 p.m. English Mass, and the parish is staffed by Redemptorist priests from Poland and India.
"There are large groups of Poles, Vietnamese and English-speaking Catholics who would be badly affected by the law. Some of them are older and do not know Danish, while others are students and workers here on temporary visas and so do not learn Danish," the bishop observed.
Sister Anna Mirijam Kaschner, secretary-general of the Nordic Bishops' Conference predicted the law would have "no consequences" for unregistered Muslim groups. The 50-year-old nun from the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood told Dom Radio that sermons formed "only a very small part" of religious activities.
The Conference of European Churches (CEC) wrote to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen Tuesday stressing Denmark's "legal obligations to the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages of the Council of Europe, which came into force in 2000."
Such legislation sends out "an unreasonably negative signal in relation to religion and the role of religious communities in society," the CEC — which brings together 114 churches from Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican traditions from all over Europe — stated.
Fears of Islamic radicalization escalated after Qatar took control of the management of Copenhagen's Hamad Bin Khalifa Grand Mosque by pumping nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in donations and buying loyalists on the mosque's board of directors.
Danish integration minister Mattias Tesfaye announced the creation of a new law in October that would criminalize funding for mosques sent by foreign countries after it was revealed that Saudi Arabia sent $790,000 to the Taiba Mosque in Copenhagen through its embassy.
Denmark was Catholic from late in the first millennium until 1536, when it became a Lutheran country under the authority of the crown.
The Catholic Church in Denmark is comprised of a single diocese based in Copenhagen with 38 parishes plus two North Atlantic parishes in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
The diocese has 1 bishop, 72 priests, 5 deacons and around 46,000 registered members. Most priests are immigrants.
There are 115 registered mosques catering to 270,000 Muslims who live in Denmark.