From Iceland — National Church Preparing for Church and State Separation?

National Church Preparing for Church and State Separation?

Published November 15, 2010

A proposal put forward at a recent meeting of church officials calls for a work group to look into the possible effects of separation of church and state on the church itself.
Eyjan reports that the work group intends to submit its results this spring, detailing in what ways the separation could occur, and how church operations would adjust to this event. The proposal accepts that such a separation might actually improve relations between the church and the general public.
However, the church would need to address what their new relationship with the state would be, how they would cover operational costs, and other factors.
Bishop of Iceland Karl Sigurbjörnsson has recently re-iterated that it is inaccurate to use the term “nationally-operated church”. The bishop contends that the church is an independent entity that works closely with the government. “I am myself convinced that a nation will not be raised on any solid foundation save for that which the Christian European tradition offers,” he said in part. “Justice, compassion, and responsibility.”
Separation of church and state has been gaining more momentum lately, as the last Gallup poll on the subject shows about three-quarters of the nation in favour. In addition, many candidates for the up-coming constitutional assembly elections have also called for eliminating the clause establishing a national church from the constitution.
The church, for its part, has compiled an extensive list of candidates who were asked for their positions on Article 62 of the current constitution, which states, “The Evangelical Lutheran Church will be the national church of Iceland, and the government will therefore support and protect it. This may be changed by law.” Not every candidate has responded, but a great many of them are in favour of removing or at least changing this article.

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