The legitimacy of Iceland’s Zuist religious movement is being scrutinized by the state, Vísir reports. At the organization’s inception in 2016, its leader, Águst Arnar Ágústsson, stated that the organization’s main goal would be refunding every single member of the parish taxes they received (all tax-payers in Iceland pay a fee to the Luthern state church or another religious institution of their choosing). But surprise, surprise, The Zuists received the state’s money and most likely kept it since no one received the promised refunds.
In early 2019, the State Accounting Office suspended payments to the religious organization when doubts arose about its legitimacy. This prompted the Zuists to sue the Icelandic government for defamation.
It is estimated that the Zuist Church has received more than 15 million ISK of taxpayers’ money, yet they have been reluctant to disclose where that money has since been spent. The law is very clear, they must provide the state attorney with a list of members’ names, social security numbers, and addresses.
In Iceland, the state is not separated from the church but organizations have to meet certain standards to be eligible for financing. While the government initially approved of the budding Zuist movement, it is now taking the stance that the harm done justifies the withdrawal of their support.
At the time of reporting, this all looks very sketchy. For example, the only activities organized by the church this year were “Beer and Prayer” gathering hours, which were hosted in restaurants to allegedly keep costs down. I mean, all power to making up your own religion, after all, that’s how the big ones were born too, but at least make it appear legit.
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