An MP for the Leftist-Greens will submit a proposal calling for the separation of church and state when parliament reconvenes this fall.
Árni Þór Sigurðsson, vice chairman of the Leftist-Green Party and chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, told the press that he will submit a proposal to parliament which calls for separation of church and state, and for no religious organization to receive preferential treatment from the government.
Speaking to RÚV evening news, he said in part that, “The church of course needs to take care of its matters regardless of whether or not there’s any separation of church and state.”
He has not as yet decided if he will submit the idea as a bill to be made into law, or as an official proposal (þingsályktunartillaga). The difference between the two is that while the former can be passed into law, the latter, if passed by parliamentary majority, is more of an official government position which usually leads the way towards the creation of legislation which supports that position.
As it stands, the national church of Iceland receives close to 5 billion ISK per year in the form of state revenues, which includes “congregational fees” – payments taken from registered members of the church. All Icelanders are registered with the church by default, however, and need to do some paperwork in order to unregister themselves.
In a recent news story, half of the Icelandic government’s sitting ministers said they favor separation of church and state. According to a poll conducted by the Humanist Society in 2006, 65% of Icelanders favor such separation as well.