Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson, manager of the Icelandic Zuist Church, says once the state’s court case against the organisation is closed, he will dissolve the organisation, and distribute its ISK 50 million ($407,000/€365,000) in assets among the group’s members and charity organisations. Ágúst told mbl.is that he is tired of the organisation’s battles with legal authorities. In court proceedings earlier this month, the Treasury Solicitor stated there is little to suggest the Zuist Church is an active religious organisation and not simply a money-making scheme.
The Zuist Church of Iceland
The Zuist Church of Iceland was established in 2010. In 2013, it was officially recognised as a religious association by the Icelandic government. The organisation was minimally active until 2015, when it was taken over by a new leadership, which promised that the tax funds received by the church would be distributed among its members in a form of protest against nationally mandated tax on religious membership. A spike in membership followed, reaching around 3,000 at its height. In 2017, the original founders of the organisation, Ágúst Arnar among them, were restored to power. They decided to maintain the practice of refunding church members.
In November, the District Court of Reykjavík rejected the Zuist Church’s claims the State should pay the organisation penalty interest or damages. The Church’s representatives believed the state had violated the organisation by withholding tax funding in 2016 and 2017. The funds were withheld due to doubts the organisation was indeed functioning as a religious group.
Ágúst and his brother Einar became known as the Kickstarter brothers for several projects they promoted and funded on the platform, including a wind turbine which a New Zealand engineer described as violating some of the laws of physics. Einar was charged and convicted of fraud following an investigation by authorities, receiving a prison sentence of 3.5 years.