Norway to Stop Free Bible Distribution in Schools

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The Directorate of Education has asked municipalities to stop allowing the free distribution of bibles in Norwegian schools.

Many thousands of copies of the Bible are distributed to Norwegian schoolchildren each year. But now that long-running tradition is set to end.

A Norwegian wooden church in the north of Norway

There has been no new regulation or law change. Rather the Directorate of Education has changed its interpretation of an already existing law.

Free bibles classed as “preaching”

In terms of religious education, the Education Act makes a distinction between teaching and preaching. The Directorate has ruled that gifting students religious writings, books, or objects can be seen as preaching.

Noone is sure how many bibles are given away to children in Norway. The Gideon organisation estimates they have distributed about 15,000 Bibles and copies of the New Testament to schoolchildren each year. Gideon also distributes to hotels, prisons and hospitals.

Read more: Norway’s Stunning Stave Churches in Pictures

Of course, bibles will still be used in schools in connection with religious education. Nothing about the teaching of religion in the Norwegian education system will change. But the Directorate says the concept of gifts should no longer be permitted.

An old copy of the Bible in Norwegian

A response to a Humanist query

The recent interpretation comes following a question from the Norwegian Humanist Association about whether it is acceptable for bibles to be distributed free in schools.

The association's political spokesperson Lars-Petter Helgestad said that school-owned copies should be used when religious texts are needed for teaching.

“This is easily solved by using classroom sets, not by letting missionaries into the classroom,” he told NRK.

Vestnytt revealed that in 2019, the parish council in the former Fjell municipality spent just over NOK 60,000 giving Bibles to all local 5th grade children.

The exterior of Sollia Church in Rondane National Park, Norway
Sollia Church. Photo: Jarle Wæhler / Statens vegvesen

On January 1, 2017, the Norwegian State Church was legally separated from the state when an amendment to the Church Act came into force.

Christian Democrats upset

While a national election is coming up in a matter of days, the leader of the Christian Democrats (KrF) Kjell Ingolf Ropstad currently holds the post of minister for children and families.

Read more: Hegge Stave Church: A 13th Century Gem in Valdres

“This has been done at Norwegian schools for many years. I think it is quite startling that the directorate now asks the municipalities to stop it,” he said to NRK.

Ropstad said that knowledge of the Christian faith is an important part of the curriculum, so it should be fine to distribute Bibles to students. He also disagrees with the “preaching” classification.

“No one forces students to read the Bible they are given,” he said. “If there are students who do not want it, I'm sure they will not read it or throw it away, and that will be fine.”

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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4 thoughts on “Norway to Stop Free Bible Distribution in Schools”

  1. Where, through all these prior years of proselytizing, were the all followers of the Quran and Torah? Did they just sit by and watch christianity promoted by Norwegian religionists. I suggest the Directorate of Education order the free distribution of Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” to all first year students at
    Videregående skoler. I agree to establish and fund a trust to pay for all copies in perpetuity.

  2. The only solution to change a society into something neutral without any kind of protestors is to be implemented and followed the French example. Strict implementation of no religion symbols, clothes and characteristics at school environments.
    In private life the students are free to follow as per their tradition any kind of religion, political, athletic believe but the school it must only based in science and reasonable lessons.

  3. Hmm.. love your neighbor as yourself – everyone would likely agree. The moment you bring God into the equation with the other half of that bible verse opposition builds – love your God of all your hearth. Maybe the opposition should remember that God created them – whether they believe he exist or not. Not believing that oxygen exist does not prevent you from breathing! Olav, Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania.


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