Published December 13, 2016
Pirate Party captain Birgitta Jónsdóttir told listeners on the Harmageddon radio show this morning that the national church ought to give a portion of the tax money that the proposed budget has outlined for them to Iceland’s faltering health care system.
As reported, the National Church is getting a rise, with an additional 113.4 million ISK going to the institution, for a total budget of over 2 billion ISK. Birgitta told listeners that the church should transfer this 113.4 million ISK to the health care system instead.
Birgitta pointed out that the Pirates have three times run opinion polls on what sectors should be prioritised in next year’s budget. Time and again, she said, the church comes in last place.
“There is always this classic discussion whenever anyone allows themselves to criticise [the church],” she said. “People always say you’re against Christianity. I just want people to have in mind that I have nothing against anyone’s religion. People can believe what they want. But I feel that all state involvement in religion is very strange, and not in keeping with modern times.”
As such, she believes the church should show some initiative in the matter.
“I don’t support this great a [revenue] increase, just not at all,” she said. “Think about how nice it would be if the church, of its own accord around Christmas, requested that they not receive this increase, but that it instead be given to the health care industry. I think that would be very Christian.”
Tax support for the National Church has been a contentious topic in Iceland for many years, to where even young conservatives, typically the strongest supporters of the National Church, have opposed increasing their budget.
The bishop herself makes over 1 million 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.