Shaping the Danish People’s Church in the Context of Freedom of Religion: A.S. Ørsted (1778-1860) and N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872)

Lisbet Christoffersen, Niels Henrik Gregersen

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In this chapter, we investigate the interactions between the “theologizing jurist” A.S. Ørsted and the “historicizing theologian” N.F.S. Grundtvig. Taking our point of departure in their initial conflicts in the 1810s, we show their rapprochement in 1826 and follow in detail their distinctive positions at the 1848-49 constitutional assembly. Ørsted and Grundtvig were among the most active speakers at the assembly that formulated the Danish Constitution of 1849. Both argued for freedom of religion, but whereas Ørsted wanted this freedom to be given by law in the legislative decisions to come, Grundtvig wanted freedom of religion to have a prominent place in the Constitution. They agreed on the identification of the “People’s Church” as a confessionally defined Evangelical Lutheran church, though Grundtvig worked for a high degree of freedom for members as well as pastors within the church. We argue that Ørsted and Grundtvig reversed their roles over time. Grundtvig began as a conservative but ended up promoting the most liberal ecclesiastical legislation. Ørsted began as a liberal administrator of church affairs but ended up as a conservative voice in the Parliament-not because he had changed his views, but because the society had changed from the age of an open-minded absolutism to the age of democracy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw and the Christian Tradition in Scandinavia : The Writings of Great Nordic Jurists
EditorsKjell Åke Modéer, Helle Vogt
Number of pages36
Place of PublicationLondon and New York
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)9780367858247
ISBN (Electronic)9781000201536
Publication statusPublished - 2021
SeriesLaw and Religion


  • A.S. Ørsted
  • N.F.S. Grundtvig
  • Danish Constitution 1849
  • People's Church of Denmark
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Ecclesiastical law in Denmark
  • Law and religion

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