A new Gallup poll shows most Icelanders want separation of church and state, while the Bishop of Iceland contends it already exists.
According to the results of the poll, RÚV reports, 55% of respondents said they support a separation between church and state. At the same time, 23.9% were against it, and 21.5% had no opinion.
This is a marked increase from the same poll last year, when 50.6% said they supported separation of church and state.
Taken by party affiliation, the majority of voters for every party, except the ruling Progressives and Independence Party, supported separation of church and state. The greatest level of support was with Pirate Party voters (79%), followed by voters for Bright Future (72%), Left-Greens (65%) and Social-Democrats (54%). Only 38% of Progressive voters and 26% of Independence Party voters support separation of church and state, although the latter is examining the idea.
Bishop of Iceland Agnes M Sigurðardóttir told RÚV she believes there already is separation of church and state, and can even pin it down to an exact year: 1997, when the church handed over some 600 properties they used to own to the state.
“What ‘separation’ means, I want to define that first of all,” she told reporters. “It’s a given to discuss both what it means to further separate church and state, and whether we want to separate them further.”
As it is, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland operates largely independently, but does receive a portion of income tax revenue in the form of “parish fees” (sóknargjöld). The 2016 budget calls for a payout of 5.8 billion ISK to go to the church. The national church also operates under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, which helps determine how much of the national budget goes the church’s way.