Support For Church & State Separation Increases - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Support For Church & State Separation Increases

Published December 18, 2015

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About 71% of Icelanders now support separation of church and state, according to the results of the latest Gallup poll, showing a marked increase from the previous poll on the subject taken only two months ago.

RÚV reports in all, 71% of Icelanders support separation of church and state, as opposed to the current arrangement, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland is a government institution funded in part by taxes.

There was, however, distinct political division where the separation of church and state question is concerned. While most voters for the Pirate Party and Bright Future supported the idea, Independence Party voters were the most opposed, with 62% against separation of church and state.

The results mark a dramatic increase since the last poll was taken, in October, when 55% supported separation of church and state.

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.”

Pirate Party MP Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson responded to the contention that it “smells of nonsense”, arguing that the Bishop was deliberately complicating a simple matter.

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.


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