Iceland Takes Step in Right Direction

Congratulations to the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, which won a major battle when that nation’s parliament passed a law recognizing secular organizations as almost equal under the law to religious ones. Secular groups can now apply for equal status:

The Icelandic Parliament (Althing) this week passed a law which gives secular life stance organisations the right to apply for equal legal status with religions. The new law amends the current law about registered religious organisations. Thus, for the first time in Icelandic history, the government recognizes and guarantees equality between secular and religious life stances!

But part of this is only a partial victory:

An additional improvement provided by this law is that newborn babies will no longer automatically be registered into the religion of the mother, but rather according to the religious or life stance registration of both parents, and only if the registrations match. Sidmennt members and many other people inIcelandincluding many legislators feel that this does not go far enough and that it is a human rights violation for government to be involved at all in registering people’s religious affiliation and is especially abnormal to register newborn babies in a religion. The sponsors of the new law say they want to work towards abolishing this anachronism but think it can only be done in stages.

Yes, the idea of the government keeping a registry of those who belong to each religion, especially when it is assigned at birth rather than when one joins a church, is pretty creepy. Hopefully they’ll reach their final goal there soon. Also, Iceland still has an official church, Evangelical Lutheran, that receives special protections and taxpayer funds, though like most European nations with such churches, it has very little effect on actual belief. In time, I hope they disestablish that church as well.

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