PRIESTS in Iceland face being defrocked if they refuse to marry gay couples.
The new rule was passed this week in an annual church conference where priests vote democratically on spiritual and administrative issues.
Many priests and former bishops have said the rule violates their “freedom of conscience”.
The current bishop, Agnes Sigurdardottir, declined to comment but has expressed her belief in the past that “freedom of conscience” must be respected.
Secretary to the bishop, Thorvaldur Vidisson, said: “The marriage laws in Iceland are clear on who can get married. Priests are not allowed to discriminate on the bases of sexual preferences.”
Same-sex marriage was legalised in Iceland nine years ago and homosexuality was decriminalised 76 years ago.
Priests in the country are government employees and the constitution bans both state and private enterprises to discriminate on the basis of sexuality.
A recent poll amid Icelandic priests conducted by the state radio RUV, revealed that only three out of a total 150 priests were opposed to marry a gay couple. None of the three priests were available for comment but their conscience has been a subject of controversy among their colleagues, some of whom have defended their position while others call for them to be defrocked.
Hildur Bolladottir, a priest in the town of Akureyri, said: “We are all born different, some with different sexualities. Not allowing someone to get married because of how they were born is crazy. People who discriminate have no business being a priest and should find themselves another job.”
Kristinn Sigurthorsson, a priest in the town of Borgarnes disagrees with Hildur and said: “The freedom of conscience is one of the pinnacles of our religion, to force someone to act against their beliefs is serious.”
Reverend Sigurthorsson said, however, that he was not at risk of losing his job as he had no objection to marry gay couples.
The gay marriage issue was part of a wider problem discussed in the same church conference.
The number of congregation members is at an all time low and more than 10 per cent of the 330 thousand person nation have left the church in the last ten years.
The total percentage going from 92.2 per cent in 1991 to 73.6 per cent in 2015.
Discrimination against homosexuals is one of the top reason people leave the church, according to Icelandic polls.