MP for the Pirate Party, Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, has challenged the Bishop of Iceland’s comments regarding the separation of church and state, saying her comments “smelled of nonsense,” reports Vísir.
After news broke that the majority of Icelanders want the separation of church and state, Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir argued that it already exists and has ever since 1997 when the church handed over some 600 properties to the state.
“What [does] ‘separation’ mean, I want to define that first of all,” Bishop Agnes 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.”
“I smell nonsense when people attempt to complicate even the simplest of concepts with calls for definitions of words or simple ideas which should be quite clear,” wrote Helgi Hrafn in a recent blog post. “The separation of church and state, put simply, is that the institution now known as The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland is no longer specially mentioned in the nation’s constitution and laws, enjoying the same position and rights and obligations as all other religious and philosophical organisations.”
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.
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.