While many priests for the Church of Iceland have welcomed Reykjavík’s new proposal on the relationship between the church and city schools, some remain unsatisfied.
The proposal itself was intended to ensure that playschool and primary school children in Reykjavík would be able to attend classes without being proselytized to, and that their school experience would be separate from matters of faith. The proposal was made in response to parent complaints about perceived religious indoctrination in playschool and grade school, with many kids being sent home with religious literature. This prompted the Human Rights Committee to draft a proposal that would forbid church officials from conducting missionary work in schools.
This set off a strong reaction from church officials, with the bishop himself calling the proposal “prejudice and opposition to faith, especially Christianity,” and numerous conservatives speculating that soon Christmas would be banned from play schools.
RÚV reports that the proposal has been passed in committee, and will now be sent to the floor of city hall for discussion. The proposal is a re-working of the previous one, with the language saying that education in morality and religion would remain a large part of the school experience, and that traditional songs, stories and dances would be protected.
Not all Icelandic priests are happy with the proposal, though, among them Gísli Jónasson, the parish priest of Breiðholtskirkja. He believes that the new proposal still means schools will put too much emphasis on the secular and not enough on the religious, and fears that it will lead to legitimising atheism as the norm.
Gísli points out that most Icelandic children are baptised into the Icelandic church, omitting the fact that children born to mothers registered in the Church of Iceland are automatically registered in the church themselves.
The church is facing an existential crisis of sorts in Iceland. The vast majority of Icelanders want separation of church and state, and a referendum on the matter could soon be in the works.