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Denmark invites controversial priest to give parliament service

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Denmark invites controversial priest to give parliament service
Flags at Christiansborg prior to parliament's opening on Wednesday. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
10:30 CEST+02:00
A string of opposition MPs did not attend the traditional church service held to mark the opening of Denmark’s parliament after a priest with a history of expressing homophobic views was invited to lead the worship.

The service, which takes place on Tuesday morning, was to be given by Morten Kvist, a parish priest from Herning who once made comments apparently comparing homosexual people to paedophiles.

Kvist, 63, has been active in public debate for a number of years and was opposed to Denmark’s introduction of marriage equality in 2012.

In 2008, Kvist criticised in an interview with newspaper Politiken a decision by Copenhagen Municipality to approve two same-sex couples as foster parents.

The priest said the decision could reflect a trend of “(equal) rights fundamentalism”.

“To put it in sharp terms – what about paedophiles? Do they also have rights? Paedophiles have a need to be with children, should they be allowed that?”, he told Politiken in the 2008 interview.

“Homosexuals as foster parents is not a violation [as would be the case with paedophiles, ed.], but nevertheless: being homosexual is different. That difference must be respected, just as minorities of all kinds must accept their deviation from the norm,” he continued.

Kvist said this week that he stands by his views on traditional gender roles but denied comparing same-sex relationships with paedophilia.

“I simply said that at the end of such a road, in which all normality is left behind, that questions arise. And they have. There has been a lot of discussion about paedophiles since, including because some paedophiles have begun to say ‘we also have rights’,” he said to DR.

“Firstly, this is not so controversial, I don’t think. Secondly, there are many who think the same as me. Maybe even the majority of people in Denmark, what do I know? So it’s not as though I’m alone in my views,” he said with regard to his views on same sex couples in previous comments reported by DR.

A survey carried out on behalf of newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad in 2010, prior to the introduction of legal marriage equality, found that 63 percent supported same-sex marriages in the Church of Denmark, while 25 percent were opposed.

Mogens Jensen, deputy leader with the Social Democrats, said he did not wish to be present at the service.

“I have decided for the first time not to attend parliament’s church service tomorrow, and I regret this. I would have liked to be there. But I think that the Minister for the Church [Mette Bock, ed.] has chosen a priest with views which I do not wish to legitimise by being present in the church,” Jensen, a former minister who is gay and has campaigned for LGBT rights, including the right to be married by all priests in the Church of Denmark, told DR.

Kvist’s views have resulted in the Socialist People’s Party pulling all of its MPs out of the service, which is traditionally held prior to the opening of parliament.

Politicians from the left-wing Red-Green Alliance and environmentalist Alternative party have also criticised Bock for her choice of priest, with some MPs from those parties also staying away.

Some Alternative MPs who did attend on Wednesday did so wearing the rainbow flag in an apparent statement of support for the LGBT community.


Alternative MPs arrive for the service at Christiansborg on Wednesday. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix 2018

Social Democrat MPs Mette Reissmann and Peter Hummelgaard followed Jensen in choosing to absent themselves from the service.

Party colleague Flemming Møller Mortensen said he would be in attendance.

“I am homosexual myself, and I have never experienced Danish society holding me back personally,” Mortensen told DR on Sunday.

“Of course it affects me that a priest has expressed these views. That does not create a positive mood for me (at the service). But I also feel that I should show tolerance for those who think differently to me – including parish priests,” he said.

Bock said on Sunday that she did not recognise the criticism of her choice.

“I think it is a narrow-minded, misunderstood and judgemental approach to say we should cross-examine priests that are giving service at the opening of parliament,” Bock, a Liberal Alliance MP, said to DR, adding that Kvist was entitled to “precisely the opinions he has”.

“We live in a country where we distinguish between religion and politics,” Bock said.

“I don’t personally share Morten Kvist’s views as referred to here [in reference to 2008 Politiken interview, ed.]. I am part of a rainbow family myself, in which my daughter and stepdaughter and their three children have a lovely family together,” she said.

Conservative MP Naser Khader wrote in a Twitter post that he was “looking forward” to Kvist’s service.

“Calm down! I don’t agree with Morten Kvist in his views on homosexual foster families. But let’s wait and hear what he has to say before descending into collective hysteria,” he wrote.

Commenters on social media have pointed out that had Kvist’s comments been made by an imam, the reaction by Khader might have been different.

In 2017, an imam in the town of Skive was given a 14-day suspended prison sentence for comparing homosexuality to with paedophilia. The imam's comments were made in a letter published by Jyllands-Posten.

READ ALSO: Christianity in, integration out in new guidelines for Danish public broadcaster

Editor's note: a previous version of this article stated that the service for the opening of parliament would take place on Wednesday. It in fact took place on Tuesday. The error has been corrected.

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