Home > Family > Denmark > 2001-01-09 - Western High Court of Denmark, n. KB-afd.B-1580009, u. (...)

2001-01-09 - Western High Court of Denmark, n. KB-afd.B-1580009, u. 2001.910V - Tombstone-case

Family · Denmark · Freedom of religion · Funeral

The choice of a tombstone made by the Church council prevails over the relatives of the deceased’s choice

Key facts of the case - A, a member of Hell’s Angels, was killed and buried at Nørup Cemetery. He was given a traditional tombstone.
In the spring of 1998, B, the mother of A, received a picture of a tombstone put in place by Hell’s Angels for another of their members – this tombstone had the club logo and the club name engraved on it.
B asked the Church Council (C) for permission to replace the old tombstone with a new one, but her request was denied. While B was on vacation, one of her daughters, along with the Hell’s Angels club, had the new tombstone fitted on to the grave of A.
C wanted to remove the tombstone. B sued the Council claiming the tombstone is neither offensive nor scary. She also claims that the removal is in violation of her rights in the European Human Rights Convention (Art. 8 and 9).
Furthermore, B supports her claim with the Gospel of Luke, claiming Jesus taught to be tolerant with others, something that C does not seem to be fulfilling.
C defended itself by saying that the decision to deny the new tombstone was not taken lightly and there were not any theological grounds behind the decision. The reason was the disharmonious nature of the tombstone – they even dispute the claim that EHRC art. 8 apply to gravesites.

Main reasoning of the Court - The Court did not focus on the religious reasoning but made it clear that the decision taken by C against the new tombstone the very first time was legally binding and should be considered binding by both parties. Although relatives of the deceased have the freedom to choose a tombstone of their liking, the Church Council has to decide for itself whether a specific tombstone is allowed or not.
Furthermore, according to the Court, the Council did not breach Articles 8 and 9 in the ECHR.