Parishioners demand return of atheist pastor
Hundreds of parishioners in the Danish village of Taarbaek have come to the defence of their pastor after he was suspended for not believing in God and have demanded his reinstatement, Danish media reported.
At a protest, parishioners condemned the state Lutheran Protestant Church for its decision to suspend 55-year-old Thorkild Grosboell after he spoke of his lack of beliefs in a newspaper interview last week.
"If there is no place for our pastor in this Church, then there is no place for many of us either," the head of the parish council, Lars Heilesen, told the gathering.
Some 88 per cent of Danes are members of the State church.
Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel suspended Pastor Grosboell, calling his comments "totally unacceptable" and ordering him to make a statement "clarifying that he did not want to sow doubt about the Church's confession but rather trigger a debate".
Since he has yet to do so, the suspension has not been lifted.
The pastor and the bishop are due to meet on Friday.
"With his comments, the pastor has created confusion and uncertainty about what the Church stands for," Bishop Rebel said.
Denmark's Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, Tove Fergo, has taken the Bishop's side in the matter, saying a pastor cannot work in the State church if he or she does not believe in God.
According to a study published in the religious daily Kristelig Dagbladet, 90 per cent of pastors agree.
However, a committee fighting corruption and abuse of power in Denmark has denounced what it described as censorship against the pastor, saying his freedom of expression had been violated.
It has filed a police complaint against the Church, accusing it of violating the Danish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.