Icelandic parliament to discuss separation of church and state

Arni Thor Sigurdsson, deputy chairman of the Left Green Movement group of MPs in the Icelandic parliament, has said he intends to start a debate about the separation of church and state when the Althingi parliament reconvenes for its autumn term.

He says that given the troubles the state church is currently grappling with, it is the right time for parliament to re-examine the close links between the church and the state, RUV reports.

He says the debate should centre on the fact that there is no longer only one religious organisation in Iceland which enjoys widespread support.

If the government does decide to loosen ties to the church, Sigurdsson says: “We would no longer have one religion which has access to more state funding than all the others. The church would not have the same direct ties to the state that it has today.”

The problems of the church would not disappear, he warns: “The church needs, of course, to sort out its issues whether it is a state church or not”.

Sigurdsson has not yet decided whether the debate will be presented to parliament as a formal bill or as a parliamentary resolution – but he said that either way, the issue will be discussed in Althingi.

The state church in Iceland is currently embroiled in a sex abuse scandal; but public support for making the church independent of the state has been growing steadily for some years.

(Main page photo not recent (taken at Christmas time) and shows Althingi and the Domkirkjan cathedral side-by-side in Reykjavik: taken by Alex Elliott)

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