The National Church has gotten its wish for a budget increase, totaling close to 410 million ISK, and not everyone is entirely pleased.
Vísir reports that the 2016 budget proposes that government support for the national church increase by 409.7 million ISK, or by 4.9%. This would take the national church’s current yearly budget from just over 5.4 billion ISK to just over 5.8 billion ISK.
In addition, “parish fees” (sóknargjöld), a personal tax that nearly every Icelander pays unless they deliberately deregister from the church and do not register for any other religious institutions, will also increase, by 165.1 million ISK. This translates to 898 ISK per month per person. Parish fees, however, do not go solely to the national church but to all legally registered religious and “philosophical” institutions.
However, RÚV reports, the Young Conservatives (SUS) – the youth branch of the Independence Party, which is part of the ruling coalition – has issued a statement against the budget increase. SUS argue that it should not be the role of public offices to support religious institutions, and that it is “unnatural” for the government to give preference to one religious group above others; that all religious institutions should be treated equal.
As reported, Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has said that the church cannot take more cuts to its budget – although the bishop herself makes 1,036,000 ISK per month, while the average base salary for a parish priest is about 585,000 ISK per month (although many make significantly more). In addition, priests receive extra payments for baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals. Some of these extra payments have been made off the books.
Icelanders have been leaving the national church faster than they are joining it, while other religious institutions have actually seen an increase in membership. The bishop has, albeit erroneously, blamed this decrease in part on immigrants.