From Iceland — National Queer Organisation May Take National Church To Court

National Queer Organisation May Take National Church To Court

Published September 24, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Alísa Kalyanova

The National Queer Organisation is considering taking the national church to court over a so-called “freedom of conscience” exemption for ministers to not marry same-sex couples. One minister has already come forward, calling the exemption “nonsense” and saying “religion does not trump human rights”.

Vísir reports that the Office of the Bishop of Iceland, in response to a formal question posed in parliament, stated that ministers of the national church do have the “freedom of conscience” to refuse to marry a same-sex couple on religious grounds. They emphasised that despite the exemption, the right of same-sex couples to get married in a state church is secure. This, they argue, is because although the freedom of conscience exemption exists, the church has not put in place any special regulations that give ministers the right to evoke this exemption to avoid marrying same-sex couples.

Nonetheless, the freedom of conscience exemption still applies, and Hilmar Hildar Magnúsarson, the director of the National Queer Organisation, says that priests should not have the right to discriminate for religious reasons.

“First and foremost, we’re talking about a public office offering a public service,” he told reporters. “This is a clear case of discrimination against the country’s citizens.” He added that it makes no difference if only very few ministers evoke the exemption. “Whether it’s one minister or a hundred, this is a matter of principle.”

As such, the organisation is exploring their options, which include taking the national church to court. Bjargar Valgeirsdóttur, a lawyer for the organisation, says that the exemption is a clear example of discrimination based on sexual preference and orientation, and is therefore unconstitutional.

Hildur Eir Bolladóttir, a minister for the national church, agrees, and issued a heartfelt statement to that effect.

“Although I am a Christian, and Jesus is my spiritual compass, there are of course numerous other religions in the world, and their followers look to their saviors the same way I do mine,” she wrote. “Religion is the anchor and lifesaver of many, but it still does not trump human rights. To love your spouse, and express that with your constitutionally guaranteed right to marry trumps religion. This is why the church cannot hide behind this freedom of conscience nonsense.”

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