From Iceland — Trust In Icelandic National Church Decreases, Most Want Separation Of Church & State

Trust In Icelandic National Church Decreases, Most Want Separation Of Church & State

Published October 23, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Timothée Lambrecq

Public trust in the national church decreased by 10% between last year and this year, RÚV reports, according to the findings of a new Gallup poll. Only about one third of respondents trust the church a great deal or completely, while 40% trust it very little, and approval of the job Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir is doing has never been lower. Most Icelanders want separation of church and state.

While high levels of trust in the church were at about 60% in 1999, it is now down to 33%, but the lowest it has ever been was in 2012, when it was at 28%. Interestingly, 65% of Icelanders are officially registered in the church, indicating that a significant portion of the church’s own parishioners do not trust the institution to a significant degree.

In terms of demographics, older people and voters for the Independence Party and Centre Party were the most likely to trust the church, but high income earners were the least likely to trust the church much at all.

Support for the Bishop has also been on the wane. Only 14% of respondents said they are pleased with the work she has been doing, down from 27% last year and 45% in 2012, the first year of her service in office.

The majority of respondents also support separation of church and state, with 54% supporting the idea; 23% against it, and 23% with no opinion on the matter. This is a growing sentiment, and one supported by at least one member of the clergy itself.

As reported, more people have been leaving the church than joining for several years now.

Nonetheless, the national church is still enshrined in the Icelandic constitution as having the right to government support. The most recent funding allocations to the church total over 2.8 billion ISK, in addition to the parishioner fees that are automatically deducted from registered members. The Bishop herself earns over 1 million ISK per month, while parish priests usually earn about half a million, in addition to what they might charge for services such as weddings, baptisms and confirmations.

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