Helga Haugland Byfuglien, praeses of the Norwegian Bishops’ Conference, said that Sunday opening would violate the “Christian and humanistic heritage” which is enshrined in the second article of the document drafted in 1814.
“Based on our Christian and humanistic heritage, Sunday is a holy day and one of the pillars of our rhythm of life. As I see it, it is not in line with paragraph 2 of the Constitution to change this,” she told NRK.
The government has two proposals for legalising Sunday trading. The first would allow any retailer who wants to stay open on Sundays. The second would leave the decision up to individual municipalities.
Haugland Byfuglien argues that Norway’s Christian and humanistic heritage depends on Sunday being protected and safeguarded as a common day of rest.
She claims that the Sabbath day is in itself is an important expression of the Christian and humanist values on which Norway’s society is built.
“A thousand years of history…cannot be changed just because the government believes in market forces,” she said in a hearing on the government’s plans.
Bjørgulv Vinje Borgundvåg, an undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture, argued that the decision on whether to observe the Sabbath should be left up to individuals.
“We agree that all people need a rest. Different religions have different rest days. We think it might be nice for the people themselves to be able to choose when they want this day of rest,” he said.
Denmark removed restrictions on Sunday opening on 1 October 2012, Sweden in about 2000, and the United Kingdom in 1994.
In Norway only petrol stations, flower nurseries and grocery shops that are smaller than 100 square metres are allowed to operate on Sundays.
The proposal to allow Sunday opening has generated unexpectedly strong opposition in Norway with unions, the church and several political parties opposed.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg last week told NTB newswire that she believed the opposition would fade over time.
“This is a typical case of a proposal that many people will like and appreciate in the future, and which few parties want to go along with now,” she said.