Iceland: New religion aims to cut church-state ties

Dec 8, 2015

Icelanders are flocking to a recently founded religion which is promising them a rebate on their religious taxes, it’s reported.
In recent weeks hundreds of people have registered as Zuist, a relatively new religion based on ancient Sumerian beliefs, the Iceland Monitor website reports. While it is officially recognised as a religious organisation in Iceland, its main aim is to achieve a legislative change – to abolish state funding for religious groups, apportioned from citizens’ income taxes and known as parish fees.
The organisation is promising to give the cash it receives back to its members, and is calling for the government to stop collating information on Icelanders’ religious beliefs. According to the Visir news website, more than 1,000 people have registered as Zuist, meaning they now outnumber Muslims in Iceland’s population of 323,000. A Zuist spokesperson has since told the BBC that the figure now stands at about 3,000 members. Board member Arnor Bjarki Svarfdal Arnarson tells Visir that the Zuisim in Iceland group will disband once they achieve their objectives.
Newly registered Zuists expecting a parish fee windfall may be disappointed to discover that they’ll be expected to pay income tax on any refund they receive, Iceland Monitor points out.
Recent polling has suggested that most Icelanders would favour a complete separation between church and state. A Gallup survey published in October shows more than 55% of people want the ties to be cut, an increase of almost 5% on the previous year.

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18 comments on “Iceland: New religion aims to cut church-state ties

  • @OP – A Gallup survey published in October shows more than 55% of people want the ties to be cut, an increase of almost 5% on the previous year.

    They would need to turn out and vote on this at an election to get action, because you can guarantee the preachers will get their flocks organised as opposition to any candidates supporting separation and their loss of state-collected income!

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  • Clever.

    From the government’s POV, they can either
    (i) do nothing, allow Zuism to rise, and lose more and more revenue
    (ii) pick a legal fight with Zuism, it not being a “true” religion – a quagmire no one will want to enter
    (iii) go for church/state separate and stop giving taxpayers’ money to the woo-woo vendors

    This should work elsewhere, in other largely secular and religiously apathetic countries, such as the UK.

    It would be interested to see if it works in the US, see how valuable the Christian religion is when compared with “free money”…

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  • If Americans have it explained to them in simple terms how much their own tax bills would be reduced if religious organizations had to pay their own fair share of taxes then as more of us become unchurched, I hope there will be a tipping point where selfishly, citizens don’t want to pay for land and buildings that their own family has no connection with.

    There was an article here a while back that presented the actual numbers in terms of the amount of money that the churches here are saving while the rest of the town taxpayers are making up the difference. It was a lot of money. Much more than I would have guessed. These numbers should be put in front of every taxpayer in a very public way. And let’s play on the tribal aspect of religion with the tactic of saying “Let the (Catholics/Methodists/Baptists/Jews/Muslims/Pentacostals/etc) pay for their own damn land and buildings! Why should we pay for that?! Where’s that teaparty spirit when we really need it?

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  • From “George W. Bush’s first executive order as president created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the White House. This action expanded on the “Charitable Choice” provision, passed as part of President Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform bill, that allowed smaller and more overtly religious groups to receive government funding for providing social services. [Editor’s Note, 1/5/05: In 2003, faith-based social services grants totaled $1.17 billion].

    Apparently it doesn’t matter if its illegal. They will still do it. No one will sacrifice their political future by questioning it.

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  • “Cragun et al estimate the total subsidy at $71 billion. That’s almost certainly a lowball, as they didn’t estimate the cost of a number of subsidies, like local income and property tax exemptions, the sales tax exemption, and — most importantly — the charitable deduction for religious given. Their estimate that religious groups own $600 billion in property is also probably low, since it leaves out property besides actual churches, mosques, etc.

    The charitable deduction for all groups cost about $39 billion this year, according to the CBO, and given that 32 percent of those donations are to religious groups, getting rid of it just for them would raise about $12.5 billion. Add that in and you get a religious subsidy of about $83.5 billion.”

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    @LuisGranados via link above – So why the special privilege for churches? The short answer is, there’s no good reason for it.

    While I agree with much that LG has written here, first we have to define what is considered a “good reason”.
    Is the First Amendment to the US Constitution a “good reason”? Apparently it was at the time it was framed by our “Founding Fathers” and apparently it still is every time it has been challenged in court. Perhaps it’s just that we have yet to hit on the right challenge that will win over the Constitutional Interpreters and Keepers of the Laws that are based on it. To date, apparently the powers that be think it is better to maintain the status quo (“Congress cannot make laws that affect the free exercise of religion”) based on the predictions of the framers than to open up a potential can of worms by declaring that it is time to test those predictions. This would require an amendment to amend the amendment, which is next to impossible (as discussed elsewhere in regards to the right to bear arms).

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  • They may not be religion but resources were allocated to religious sources for the purpose of reallocation. There were funds diverted and departments that had to be set up to administer the funds.

    The GAO also stated much of the funds were never given out and cannot be traced. Sound familiar?
    Maybe they should give some of the funds to the VA. But that doesn’t add up to vote counts.

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  • Yep. The first reason seems to be, “if we can’t tell which bullshit is real, we will let all the bullshit in”.
    I know it is hard to distinguish between different species of bullshit. I’m an American voter.

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