Iceland: New religion aims to cut church-state ties

Arnor Bjarki Svarfdal Arnarson speaking to Visir TV Image copyright Visir
Image caption Board member Arnor Bjarki Svarfdal Arnarson says Zuists want the state to stop funding religious organisations

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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