updated July 26, 7 p.m. 8:48 by Evander Pedersen
(Translated from the original article available here <–)
The disputed Danish priest Torben Søndergaard has applied for asylum in the US because he feels “religiously persecuted” in Denmark. There is no persecution, says Bishop Emeritus and the Department of Human Rights
It is not a new phenomenon that foreigners seek asylum in Denmark because they are subjected to religious persecution in their home country. On the other hand, it is new that a Dane applies for asylum abroad, because – in his own words – he is persecuted on the basis of his religion.
This is nevertheless the case with the leader of the religious movement The Last Reformation, Torben Søndergaard.
In an hour-long video on social media Youtube, he says that he has applied for asylum in the United States because he fears ending up in jail and forcibly removing his children if he returns to Denmark.
Earlier this year, TV 2 featured the documentary “God’s Best Children,” which focused on a number of contentious ecclesiastical environments, including The Last Reformation. The documentary showed, among other things, Torben Søndergaard, who drove demons out of children under the age of 15, while smaller children watched.
Children’s Terms and Save the Child expressed concern at the time, and it prompted several politicians to respond. According to a report by the parliamentary committee, demon exorcism on minors and the mentally handicapped can be regarded as psychological violence. And that is precisely the report that has, among other things, caused Torben Søndergaard and his family to leave Denmark for the benefit of the United States, he says in the video.
“That law would not have been there if it had not been for me and the television programs (…) And if I go back to Denmark, they will – because of the new law – imprison me,” is the concern from Torben Søndergaard, although it should be emphasized that this is merely a report.
However, Karsten Nissen, who is a bishop emeritus and initiator of a think tank for Christian persecution, does not buy the premise that Torben Søndergaard should be religiously persecuted.
“When we talk about persecution based on one’s faith, it is about people who are subjected to very violent events: being killed, imprisoned and tortured because they practice their religion. I don’t think you can say that is the case here. “
The phrase that demonizing children and people with disabilities can be considered psychological violence is also not a restriction on religious freedom, says Karsten Nissen. Not even if Torben Søndergaard claims that demon expulsion is an important part of his religious practice.
“If the practice of religion proves to be an abuse against children, society has a duty to protect them – not against religion, but against the abuse that these very violent experiences must be said to be,” says Karsten Nissen and continues:
“He can live in Denmark as a Christian, he can start a free church, he can preach and preach just what he wants. No one is preventing him from practicing his religion publicly and in every way, so I have a hard time seeing him being religiously persecuted. ”
When opponents of child circumcision argue for a ban, they also often refer to it as “an assault on children.” But why is the state’s intervention against demon expulsion more legitimate than the state’s intervention against circumcision? According to Karsten Nissen, the difference is that circumcision is a rooted Jewish and Muslim tradition that is crucial to the identity of the religious communities in question. A ban on circumcision of boys will mean that in the long term it will not be possible to maintain a Mosaic religious community in Denmark.
“In addition, circumcision of boy children is governed by rules on how it should be done, including rules on medical supervision. When it comes to demon casting, we can see that some children are shocked and affected by what happens and can have mental health issues. And it happens completely unattended. ”
Eva Maria Lassen, a senior researcher at the Institute for Human Rights, where she deals with religious freedom, also has a hard time seeing what should make Torben Søndergaard “religiously persecuted”.
Denmark does not have a general ban on demon expulsion, and in the report referred to by Torben Søndergaard, the judicial committee notes that it is’ repeated cases’ of demon expulsion on minors and the mentally handicapped that it can ‘be considered’ as appropriate ‘ psychological violence.
“So it is not enough to call him religiously persecuted,” believes Eva Maria Lassen.
It does not appear from the Youtube video that a case has been brought against Torben Søndergaard. He merely mentions that he fears that the report may be used against him in the future , which only makes it more difficult for him to argue that he should be persecuted now, believes Eva Lassen.