From Iceland — Parish Fees To Increase

Parish Fees To Increase

Published December 2, 2020

Photo by
Ouicoude/Wikimedia Commons

The majority of the Economic and Business Committee wants to increase the “parish fee” (sóknargjöld) by 11%, according to Stundin. The parish fee is a portion of income tax revenue that goes to religious associations in Iceland, and its increase would result in an additional ISK 280 million going to the National Church and other religious associations annually.

The majority who support this change in the budget proposal include Óli Björn Kárason, Brynjar Níelsson and Bryndís Haraldsdóttir from the Independence Party, Ólafur Þór Gunnarsson from the Left-Green Party and Willum Þór Þórsson from the Progressive Party.

Vantrú, an organization that opposes the influence of organized religion in society, stated their opposition to this increase in the parish fee.

“Religious associations should, of course, preferably be run without the involvement of the state, but whilst restraints are placed on health institutions, it is shameful to increase the state’s contributions to the National Church and other religious associations,” they write in part. “It is unfortunate that MPs such as Willum Þór Þórsson claim in the media that next year only about 400 million has been cut at Landsspítali hospital, whilst also claiming that it is possible to give the National Church and other religious associations an additional 280 million annually.

“It is also unbelievable that the Left-Green’s representative on the committee, Ólafur Þór Gunnarsson, who is a doctor, considers it appropriate to increase the state’s contribution to the operation of religious associations at the same time as the state’s contribution to the operation of the health system is cut,” the statement went on. “In surveys that have been conducted on the priorities of the state’s finances, Icelanders place health issues in the first place and religion in the bottom. We sincerely hope that this proposal of the committee members will be rejected in Althingi, as it is certainly not in accordance with the will of the nation.”

Indeed, a poll taken in December 2015 showed that 71% of Icelanders supported the separation of church and state, and in 2016 the Pirate Party proposed that the government begin preparations for moving the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland out from under the auspices of the state. However, change has not yet come about.

Also in 2016, two brothers tried forming a religious organisation–Zuist–which promised to refund every single member their parish taxes. Instead, they received the state money and failed to return it to anyone.

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