The former minister of Grensáskirkja has been on a paid leave for one and a half year due to allegations of sexual assault, RÚV reports. A committee on behalf of the Ministry of Finance is assessing the legitimacy of his suspension. The Church of Iceland’s complaints board concluded that the minister had committed an offence against two women out of the five who filed complaints against the minister.
The minister received full pay for 15 months from August 2017 to November 2018 and half pay since then.
The five women had all been working for the church in one way or another and filed complaints to the Church of Iceland. The complaints board ruled in March 2018 that the minister had committed an offence against two of them in the form of a breach of morality.
The Church of Iceland’s complaints board is not an official tier of the Icelandic judicial system. It handles matters internally in the Church of Iceland.
The incidents are separate and are described in the committee’s verdict. In one case, the minister drooled into the woman’s neckline, lifted her up and held her against her will. In the other case, the minister repeatedly kissed and licked the woman, as well nibbling on her earlobes and licking her toes. The two which he was found guilty of by the board took place in 2002. The minister received a formal warning from the Church of Iceland in 2011. The five total incidents took place over a 15 year period.
At the time, the minister accused the women of colluding against him. His lawyer stated he wondered if the charges came from the Bishop, the provost, or other female friends in the church who want to bring the minister down.
The minister appealed the decision to the Church of Iceland Appellate Committee. The Appellate Committee confirmed the complaints board’s decision. In November 2018, Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, the Bishop of Iceland, stated that the minister had been officially notified that he would be suspended.
In December, the minister’s case was brought to a committee appointed by the Ministry of Finance. The committee deals with cases of official employees who have been suspended for alleged infractions at work. The committee is charged with ruling if the bishop was correct in suspending the minister and if the minister will be reinstated or relieved of his duties.