THE Icelandic community – said to be the most godless people on earth – reacted with horror when they learned that a homophobic US preacher, Franklin Graham, had been invited to preach at a Festival of Hope rally in Reykjavik.
Disgusted by Graham’s impending presence – Icelanders, 60 percent of whom say that religion has no place in their lives – decided to disrupt his gig by reserving free tickets they never intend to use, in the hopes that Graham will appear before an empty arena.
It was reported here that shortly after tickets became available on August 7, users on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit began spreading the word that protesters were reserving seats to the event but not planning to show up. The goal, protesters say, is to leave the controversial Graham with an empty venue when he appears at Reykjavík’s Laugardalshöll arena next month.
Later, it was reported that the Bishop of Iceland the Rt Rev Agnes M Sigurðardóttir, had apologised to the island’s gay community for the participation of the Church of Iceland in the festival because of Graham’s presence.
Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir, chair of Samtökin 78, an Icelandic gay activist organization told the news website Ruv.is she was angered by the state Lutheran church’s participation in the Christian rally as Graham opposes gay marriage.
Bishop Sigurðardóttir told Ruv.is she was rethinking her promise to preach at the festival, but added that it might be an opportunity to offer a contrary view to balance Graham’s. The bishop said the Icelandic church had dropped its moral and theological objections to homosexual conduct in 2010 and now was a wholehearted supporter of gay rights.
Approximately 90 per cent of the country’s population belong to the Þjóðkirkjan, the state Lutheran Church — a partner of the Church of England under the Porvoo Agreement.
However, a 2011 Gallup Poll found Iceland to be one of the world’s most irreligious nations, with 60 per cent of the population saying religion was unimportant in their daily lives.
UPDATE: We have been contacted by Hope Knútsson who sent us her reaction to this story:
I'm founder and president of Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association which just became a registered secular life stance organization in May 2013 with equal legal status to religions. There are incorrect statements in that report.
The percentage of Icelanders who are members of the state church is now 76.2%, down from 92.6% in 1990. People are automatically enrolled in the state church at birth so the number of members says nothing about whether all those people are believers. Most people remain in the state church out of apathy and patriotism. The state church stood in the way of LGBT rights for decades and even while Iceland has become a world leader regarding LGBT human rights, there are still some clergy in the state church who refuse to marry people who are gay.
Just this morning Bishop Agnes announced on the radio morning that she has decided to speak at this festival after all!