Fact check: No, Iceland never declared religions to be mental disorders

·3 min read

The claim: Iceland declared all religions are mental disorders

Iceland has declared itself a Christian nation since about 1000 A.D., and most people who live in the island nation are religious.

Still, some social media users are claiming that the government of Iceland is attacking people of faith.

“Iceland Declares All Religions Are Mental Disorders,” reads a screenshot of a headline in a June 22 Facebook post.

Another post with the screenshot circulated this month in a group with 20,000 members before the group changed its settings to block public access amid reporting inquires from USA TODAY and other fact-checkers. The claim has circulated online for years, including in a January 2020 Facebook post.

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But the claim originated on a satirical website, and the Icelandic government has not made that declaration.

USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the claim for comment.

Screenshot shows headline of satirical article

The screenshot in the June 22 post and the now-private group is of a satirical article posted on multi-faith blogging platform Patheos.com in January 2020. The article, which was removed amid reporting for this fact check, included a link to another page on the website that said “the story you were reading is satirical” and describes the website as similar to The Onion, a popular satire outlet.

More: Employees in Iceland starting working 4 days a week. It didn't hurt productivity, researchers say.

The blog writer, Andrew Hall, said he often uses the name “Andrew Kanard” in posts because “canard not only means duck but also an unfounded rumor or story.”

The Facebook post is an example of what could be called "stolen satire," where stories written as satire and presented that way originally are captured via screenshot and reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, as was the case here.

More than 60% of Icelanders are members of the national church

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the national church of Iceland and is "supported and protected by the State," the Government of Iceland website says. More than 60% of the country’s population belongs to the national church, according to a June report by the U.S. Department of State.

The Government of Iceland website further states that everyone in the country, regardless of religion or lack thereof, is "equal before the law." Additionally, the country's penal code establishes fines and potential imprisonment for hate speech, which includes "mocking, defaming, denigrating, or threatening a person or group based on religion," the Department of State report said.

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That sentiment was expressed in 2019, when a government statement said the country wanted to “address issues relating to incitement of discrimination, hostility or violence against persons on the basis of religion or belief.”

Full Fact and BOOM previously debunked the claim in 2020.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Iceland declared all religions are mental disorders. The claim originated on a satirical website. Iceland has made no such declaration. Further, the Icelandic government supports a national church and religious freedom.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Iceland never declared religions are mental disorders