Lutheran Vicar Refused to Bury a 74-year-old Woman because She Was a Lesbian

It’s not just American religious leaders who do despicable things because of their homophobia.

In North Jutland, Denmark, a Lutheran vicar said he would not bury a 74-year old woman because she was a lesbian:

“I thought — can this really be possible that we have to be ashamed? I looked at my mother’s partner and she was silent. I was upset for her. What a terrible situation to put her in,” Kirsten Østergaard told DR1.

The vicar has since apologized, but little good that does now:

“What use is that to me? This is about his views about humanity, and I don’t think those have changed. He has probably regretted it, but not because of us — rather because he has put himself in a very bad light,” Østergaard tells DR.

Must be an example of religious love… it’s not enough to hate gay people during their lifetime; the bigotry has to be implemented full force even in death.

Becky, who lives in Denmark, adds:

Complicating the issue further, is the fact that Denmark does not have separation between church and state. The Danish Lutheran Church is a state church, and as such, not only do all members of the church have the right to be buried at their local church — and the vicar has no right to refuse to bury any member of the church for any reason, but even non-members of the church have the right to be buried at the local cemetery (although in the case of non-members the vicar may choose not to officiate the burial).

(Thanks to @rksteg for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I’ve spent a lot of time in Denmark, and have many friends there. Not a one of them under 50 is a theist. A few of their parents go to church occasionally, but are still pretty unreligious. So this story is quite remarkable.

    I’d guess that in a country where most people are atheists (or at least, some kind of “nots”), folks like vicars can end up representing extreme positions. We see that happening in the U.S.,  of course, as moderate people leave the churches, leaving the more radical element behind. Not something I ever noticed in Denmark, but perhaps it has happened there, too.

  • Seladora

    Not to make the light of the situation or anything, but Østergaard is a fucking sweet last name.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    Disgusting.  

  • Brimshack

    Absolutely disgusting

  • Kirby Clendenon

    I don’t get it when LGBT folks get all bent out of shape when they are not accepted by Christians.  What do you f***ing expect.  Their Holy book is pretty clear about gay stuff.  It’s, in my opinion a bunch of crap, but still leave them alone.  Why would a gay or a lesbian or a bi person even want to go to a Christian church?  Their book says they have to love you, but the same book says you need to change and stop doing what you’re doing.   Sooner or later there will be trouble.   Why would this vicar want to bury this 74 year old lesbian?  What nice thing could he say?  Goodbye, don’t expect to see you where I’m going.  Hell they shouldn’t even have asked him.  There are plenty of people with open minds who could actually find out what the lady was about and do a lovely service for her.  Why pester the Vicar who’s mind is closed?   Seems like LGBT folks want to force the issue in Christian churches.  Unless you can pry their little fundamentalist fingers off of their Word of God, you’re not going to get anywhere meaningful.  Relax, enjoy life, it’s short.                                                                                                                                                                           

    • Stev84

      You are forgetting that Denmark doesn’t practice the insanity that is American style Christianity, that is marked by rabid extremism and a lack of accountability or even requirements to follow the law.

      The Lutheran Church is the state church in Denmark. That means that while he wouldn’t be required to perform a wedding, refusing to bury someone is in likelihood illegal.

      • Oscar Røhling

        Unfortunately we do have plenty of lunatics here as well. Usually the priest and practitioners of The People’s Church (which is the correct translation of the name of our state church and implies a lot of things that goes against OC) lets any ‘sin’ that is not against the law be between the ‘sinner’ and ‘god’ (I think that is in the bible too, but what do I know), though especially in the last decade there has been a lot of negative, regressive outburst against LGBT and (especially muslim) immigrants from some christians – including a fair amount who never openly displayed any religious sentiments earlier in live – for pure political reasons.

        You are absolutely right that his refusal is against the law, his duty is to the state. But getting a real judge involved will be very hard due to (very convenient) technicalities around his contract. The bishop of North Jutland seems very keen to just let it slide.

    • Edmond

      I hope the vicar is being CONSISTENT in who he refuses to serve.  I hope he also refuses to bury adulterers and divorcees, fornicators and masturbators, drinkers and gamblers and single parents.  I hope he isn’t ONLY singling out GAY people.  But, what are the odds….

  • Renshia

    Religious being religious, not a good day if you can’t find someone to discriminate against. 

  • TheAnalogKid

    People, give up the religion bullshit. Don’t give pieces of shit like this any authority in your lives. Fuck them, now and forever.

  • Wally Schiller

    It would be nice to hear the full story, not just a sensationalist aspect of it.  It might well be an entirely different picture.

    • adapa69

      Other then answering the question of whether it’s illegal for the state religion to refuse to burry someone, what could be missing from the story that make it an entirely different picture?

      Your comment gives me the impression that you are able to find context in the bible that white washes all its abhorrent behaviours.

    • Onamission5

      What is this different picture from your imagination where it’s compassionate or legal to deny a woman her right to burial?

  • Erp

    I wonder if he had a legal obligation to bury her.  If she was an official state recognized member of the church (i.e., part of her taxes went to the church), he might have.

    Some info from the church’s website
    http://www.lutheranchurch.dk/liturgy-and-worship/sacraments-and-rites/funeral/
    I note that the pastor has an obligation to ensure that the deceased’s wishes as to a Christian funeral or not be carried out.   

    The Danish church is quite liberal over 62% of the ministers support same-sex church weddings though that is not happening officially yet [may be legal in June 2012 if the government supported bill passes]  (and a higher number support church blessings of same-sex civil unions [which has been happening for over a decade])

    • gUEST

       
      He does actually have a legal obligation to do that. Since the church
      in denmark is the official state church, everyone pays taxes
      to it, even if they aren’t a member of it themselves. As such, actual
      membership matters nothing in this case, being a citizen is enough.

      In addition the danish state church is also an actual authority, like the police or social authorities since it’s part of the state. Where the church handles matters of burial and such. Obviously as a representative of state authority he cannot refuse to do his job, just because he had objections to the deceased. Doing so would be equivalent of denying legal services to someone who had a different skin colour, or was another gender.

      His actions are illegal, and if he hadn’t obeyed orders to stop this nonsense, he could be tried for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

    It’s just a very short step from there to picketing funerals. Fred Phelps should congratulate him in public and build a monument, that stands a chance of shaming some sense into him.

  • ortcutt

    People who aren’t members of the Church of Denmark still make contributions to it through payments the government makes that come from general taxes.  You would think that people who are expected to make involuntary payments to a church would be able to receive decent services from that church.  Norway just voted to amend the constitution to disestablish the Church of Norway.  It would be great to see Denmark do the same with with the Church of Denmark.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EAIHLUU3JSTIB3D2OWHGYN5PHA Ingen

       “Norway just voted to amend the constitution to disestablish the Church of Norway.”

      I know a lot of news sources have reported that, and I’d love it if that was what actually happened, but it’s not true. The only thing that happened is that the name changed – from “the state Church” to “the People’s Church”. Also, the people in the Church department no longer have to be Lutheran Christians. Nothing else changed.

      Still tax-funded, still cozy with the government, and all that.

      • ortcutt

        That’s disappointing but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  

        • HitchsApprentice

          When you die, they should leave your body out for the dogs to eat!

          • ortcutt

            Well.  You can choose that for yourself if you want.  It doesn’t sound like this woman was interested in any such thing.  I doubt many people would be inclined to follow you in such a funeral procedure.

  • HitchsApprentice

    Bury the Vicar….. while he’s still alive!


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