The national church has sent a letter to every member of parliament and the Constitutional Committee to maintain the institution of a state-supported church in the constitution. But how strong is support for the national church within the government, and among the people themselves?
With a new constitutional draft soon to be voted upon, one of the more contentious matters concerns the national church. The Constitutional Committee has leaned towards giving parliament the power to decide whether or not to put the matter up for public referendum. Committee member Illugi Jökulsson told Vísir last June, “Whether people have strong opinions on faith or strong opinions on atheism, people are dead serious that we must respect both sides, and we intend to try as best we can to resolve the matter with as much satisfaction to all involved as possible.”
Vísir now reports that the church has gone on the defensive, sending a letter to every member of parliament and the Constitutional Committee, demanding that the national church in its current form remain a part of the constitution. At the very least, the matter could be put up for national referendum.
In fact, support for the national church within the government is fairly evenly divided. The chairpeople of the parties leading the government – Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir of the Social Democrats and Minister of Economic Affairs and of Fisheries and Agriculture Steingrímur J. Sigfússon of the Leftist-Greens – told reporters in 2010 that they would like the government to “work towards” separation of church and state.
Among other Icelanders, a Capacent poll from the same year showed that about 73% want separation of church and state.