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No tax, no blessing: German church insists on levy
mail.com ^ | 9-28-2012 | Juergen Baetz

Posted on 09/30/2012 5:16:30 PM PDT by Renfield

BERLIN (AP) — The road to heaven is paved with more than good intentions for Germany's 24 million Catholics. If they don't pay their religious taxes, they will be denied sacraments, including weddings, baptisms and funerals.

A decree issued last week by the country's bishops cast a spotlight on the longstanding practice in Germany and a handful of other European countries in which governments tax registered believers and then hand over the money to the religious institutions.

In Germany, Catholics, Protestants and Jews pay a surcharge of up to nine percent on their income tax bills — or about €56 ($72) a month for a single person earning a pre-tax monthly salary of about €3,500 ($4,500).

For religious institutions, struggling to maintain their congregations in a secular society where the Protestant Reformation began 500 years ago, the tax revenues are vital. The Catholic Church in Germany receives about €5 billion ($6.5 billion) annually from the surcharge. For Protestants, the total is just above €4 billion ($5.2 billion). Donations, in turn, represent a far smaller share of the churches' income than in the United States.

With rising prices and economic uncertainty, however, more and more Catholics and Protestants are opting to save their money and declare to tax authorities they are no longer church members, even if they still consider themselves believers.

"I quit the church already in 2007," Manfred Gonschor, a Munich-based IT-consultant, said. "It was when I got a bonus payment and realized that I could have paid myself a nice holiday alone on the amount of church tax that I was paying on it."

Gonschor added he was also "really fed up with the institution and its failures." Such defections have hit the Catholic Church especially hard — it has lost about 181,000 tax-paying members in 2010 and 126,000 a year later, according to official figures. Protestants, who number about 24 million nationwide, lost 145,000 registered members in Germany in 2010, the most recent year from which figures are available.

But the figures include some people who still want to baptize their children, take communion on major religious holidays, marry in a religious ceremony and receive Christian burials. The group We are Church, which claims to represent tens of thousands of grassroots Catholics, said many Germans stop paying the tax because they disagree with the church's policies or simply want to save money — not because they have lost their faith.

"I haven't quit because I still think that I might want to get married in a church one day, even though I know that's absurd," said Anna Ainsley, a 31-old-year banker and a Protestant from Frankfurt. "But when I see my tax declaration, then I think every year that I should finally quit."

Those are the people that Germany's Catholic bishops had in mind when they decreed on Sept. 20 that stopping the payment of religious taxes was "a serious lapse" and those who did so would then be excluded from a range of church activities.

"This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church," the bishops said in a statement. "It is not possible to separate the spiritual community of the Church from the institutional Church."

Wavering Catholics will now be sent letters reminding them of the consequences of avoiding the church tax, including losing access to all sacraments. "Maybe you haven't considered the consequences of your decision and would like to reverse this step," a draft of the letter states.

Protestants have taken a less stern position, saying non-taxpayers are still welcome to attend services and take communion. But becoming a godparent, getting married in a church or taking a job in church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals or kindergartens are off-limits to those who stop paying their taxes.

Switzerland and Austria also tax Catholic and Protestant church members. In Denmark, the State Lutheran church collects a tax from its members. Members of Sweden's Lutheran Church pay around 1 percent of their income, collected by the national tax authorities, just as in Finland.

In Italy, tax-payers have the choice of diverting a small part of their income taxes to religious institutions, including the Catholic Church and the country's Jewish community, but the contribution is voluntary.

In none of those countries have the churches taken such a firm stand against dropouts. So far German courts have stood by the bishops' decision. This week the country's top administrative court threw out a lawsuit against the archdiocese of Freiburg by retired theologian Hartmut Zapp, who has spent years fighting the Catholic Church over the tax.

Zapp argued that a Catholic should be free to stop paying but remain a member of the spiritual community and that his religious beliefs could not possibly be tied to a tax payment. The archdiocese responded in a statement that "those who lack solidarity bid farewell to the community of believers."

The tax issue presents moral and ethical dilemmas to millions of German believers, even dividing couples. Sonja Trott, a 34-year-old teacher from Munich, said she quit the Catholic Church 15 years ago because she no longer believed in its teachings.

"Now I'd like to convince my husband that he also should quit, that would save us a lot of money," she said. But her husband, Christoph, a sales executive, says he cannot imagine refusing to pay on moral grounds because it would seem like a betrayal of his faith. "I don't like paying it, but I do because I fear the step of quitting the church."

He would prefer to donate part of the money to charities "but well, in Germany the payment determines whether I'm allowed to consider myself a Catholic or not." For other Germans, it's unethical to stop paying the tax but continue to use the church when it suits them.

Christine Solf, a Munich-based consultant, says she doesn't attend services regularly but appreciates the church's charitable work. For her, church membership is also a family tradition. "I know people who quit for financial reasons but then still want their children to be baptized. That's not OK in my opinion," she said.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Germany
KEYWORDS: freedom; germany; religion; taxes

1 posted on 09/30/2012 5:16:32 PM PDT by Renfield
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To: Renfield

intertwining the church and state is just evil


2 posted on 09/30/2012 5:18:56 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: Renfield

That’s what I love about this country. We do not have a state religion, where we have to pay a tax to the state, which then doles it out to the church of state.


3 posted on 09/30/2012 5:23:44 PM PDT by MondoQueen
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To: Renfield
The Church tax in Germany explained.
4 posted on 09/30/2012 5:24:38 PM PDT by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: Renfield

They’ll be selling Indulginces again soon.


5 posted on 09/30/2012 5:25:35 PM PDT by Lurker (Violence is rarely the answer. But when it is it is the only answer.)
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To: Lurker
They’ll be selling Indulginces(sic) again soon.

And you'll still be wallowing in ignorance.

6 posted on 09/30/2012 5:27:31 PM PDT by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: Renfield

Does the tax apply to Muslims?


7 posted on 09/30/2012 5:31:41 PM PDT by Fiji Hill (Io Triumphe!)
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To: A.A. Cunningham

Indulgences will be first. Then they’ll be taxing the prostitutes. Oh wait, the Germans already do that.


8 posted on 09/30/2012 5:32:08 PM PDT by Lurker (Violence is rarely the answer. But when it is it is the only answer.)
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To: Renfield
This tax is nothing new! My wife is German, and when I was stationed there back in the 80’s she decide to “quit” the church and save the taxes, besides we were attending church on base. Well, the stops collecting the “Church” Tax, and immediately replaced it with the “Art & Culture” Tax!!! Typical government!!
9 posted on 09/30/2012 5:32:38 PM PDT by Forrestfire (("To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." Theodore Roosevelt))
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To: Renfield
A decree issued last week by the country's bishops cast a spotlight on the longstanding practice in Germany and a handful of other European countries in which governments tax registered believers and then hand over the money to the religious institutions.

I guess the German Roman Catholic Church doesn't believe in all that free-will schmarnn.

10 posted on 09/30/2012 5:33:40 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Government is the religion of the sociopath.)
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To: GeronL

In fact, He could not have been clearer on that point...


11 posted on 09/30/2012 5:33:59 PM PDT by piytar (The predator-class is furious that their prey are shooting back.)
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To: Renfield
This sounds dangerously close to simony from days of yore. This is the practice of selling and buying indulgences.

This was one of the things that caused Martin Luther to drive down a different road.

It might have helped that the Pope was marrying off his daughter so the boys could arrange to murder her husband and, thus, take possession of a few more acres of land.

Still, we should not lose sight of the most corrupt of religions extant i.e. the Religion of Peace.

12 posted on 09/30/2012 5:34:31 PM PDT by stevem
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To: Renfield

It’s the pay to play tax.


13 posted on 09/30/2012 5:35:49 PM PDT by BipolarBob ("It was a form of exorcism. I was choking the devil out of her".)
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To: Renfield
In Germany, Catholics, Protestants and Jews pay a surcharge of up to nine percent on their income tax bills

Not muzzies?

14 posted on 09/30/2012 5:37:01 PM PDT by Rio (Tempis Fugit.)
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To: Renfield

German Christian and Catholic churches who refuse prayer and blessings for money are neither.


15 posted on 09/30/2012 5:46:08 PM PDT by svcw (Why is one cell on another planet considered life, and in the womb it is not.)
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To: Renfield

Good article showing the prescience and wisdom of our Founders in the First Amendment. Of course, they or their forebears had already experienced religious persecution in Europe and came to America to escape it.


16 posted on 09/30/2012 5:50:18 PM PDT by T-Bird45 (It feels like the seventies, and it shouldn't.)
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To: MondoQueen

Several states collected taxes on behalf of churches after ratification of the Constitution as they had before. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the States from doing so again if the people wished to.


17 posted on 09/30/2012 5:54:26 PM PDT by Jacquerie (Exterminate rats.)
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To: Fiji Hill

I bet not. That would probably be “insulting the prophet”.


18 posted on 09/30/2012 5:57:46 PM PDT by TurboZamboni (Looting the future to bribe the present)
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To: Renfield

The practice of selling sacraments is one of the things that caused Martin Luther to Protest.


19 posted on 09/30/2012 5:59:24 PM PDT by jimtorr
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To: jimtorr; A.A. Cunningham

Thanks for the link with the explanation, A.A. The money goes to either the church or the govt.

Still, I may be a bit too independent to care about the distinction. If a church is levying a tax on me thru the govt., it has no right to then ask for tithing or donations.

My ancestors fled, at various times, the Church of Scotland, Church of England and Lutheran Church. Thanks to my mother, I am even a second cousin of the direct line of Patrick Henry. She even grew up with them.


20 posted on 09/30/2012 6:12:46 PM PDT by jimtorr
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To: Renfield

You can understand the German Bishops fighting to keep the tax since some bishops live very, very comfortably from it.


21 posted on 09/30/2012 6:19:19 PM PDT by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: Jacquerie
Several states collected taxes on behalf of churches after ratification of the Constitution as they had before. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the States from doing so again if the people wished to.

Really? Would tend to think thats covered by the establishment clause as made applicable to the states under the Incorporation Doctrine. Obviously one out could be support for all religions regardless of type but then you'd have to have states directing tax revenue to radical Muslims, Jim Jones-types, etc.

22 posted on 09/30/2012 6:28:26 PM PDT by Alter Kaker (Gravitation is a theory, not a fact. It should be approached with an open mind...)
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To: Jacquerie
Several states collected taxes on behalf of churches after ratification of the Constitution as they had before. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the States from doing so again if the people wished to.

Really? Would tend to think thats covered by the establishment clause as made applicable to the states under the Incorporation Doctrine. Obviously one out could be support for all religions regardless of type but then you'd have to have states directing tax revenue to radical Muslims, Jim Jones-types, etc.

23 posted on 09/30/2012 6:28:26 PM PDT by Alter Kaker (Gravitation is a theory, not a fact. It should be approached with an open mind...)
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To: Renfield
What a person gives any church should be between them and GOD not anyone else. This is just one of the reasons the Founding Fathers broke away from Britain. If I gave $.10 or $1,000,000 to a church why would I or why should I have to tell Uncle or even the preacher, priest, or elders, for that matter it was me? Matthew ch 6 v3 says as much.

On the other hand because LBJ managed as a U.S. senator to put an unconstitutional clause into the U.S. tax code churches in the U.S. would be wise to the pay tax over being silenced. The smart thing would have been for churches to have fought his amendment. Ironic that LBJ did this when FDR solicited clergy to talk to their churches about Social Security and other New Deal programs which was a political agenda.

24 posted on 09/30/2012 6:51:50 PM PDT by cva66snipe (Two Choices left for U.S. One Nation Under GOD or One Nation Under Judgment? Which one say ye?)
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To: Lurker

More anti-Catholic bigotry.

BTW, spellcheck is our friend.


25 posted on 09/30/2012 8:00:18 PM PDT by Emperor Palpatine ("On the ascent of Olympus, what's a botched bar or two?" -Artur Schnabel)
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To: stevem

More ignorant Know-Nothingism.

We Catholics find your hate despicable. But we’ll pray for you in any event.


26 posted on 09/30/2012 8:00:27 PM PDT by Emperor Palpatine ("On the ascent of Olympus, what's a botched bar or two?" -Artur Schnabel)
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To: Jacquerie

You might want to go read up on a little thing called “incorporation”, sweetcheeks. There certainly is something in the Constitution that forbids me being taxed to support your church, or anyone’s church for that matter.

You want a church? Get out your checkbook and leave me the hell alone.


27 posted on 09/30/2012 8:07:20 PM PDT by Lurker (Violence is rarely the answer. But when it is it is the only answer.)
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To: Renfield

Jesus and his cat o nine tails would be very busy right now.


28 posted on 09/30/2012 9:09:50 PM PDT by Shadowstrike (Be polite, Be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.)
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To: ClearBlueSky

PING!!!

You might want to see this...

Troubling, very troubling.


29 posted on 09/30/2012 9:14:52 PM PDT by Shadowstrike (Be polite, Be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.)
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To: jimtorr; svcw

Let’s say you own a restaurant. By your argument, you would have no problem with customers who have money in their pockets not paying their food bills, they could come in and use the restroom for free, they could hold a wedding there and use the heat/a.c. along with lighting and water for free, make a big mess and leave it for you to clean up, and they could use your waiters without paying them (hey,kind and generous owner that you are, you would love to pay them out of your own pocket).


30 posted on 10/01/2012 1:19:25 AM PDT by dupree
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To: Lurker

No thanks, hon. History is what it is. Deal with it.


31 posted on 10/01/2012 2:17:06 AM PDT by Jacquerie (Exterminate rats.)
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To: A.A. Cunningham

Everything I read says this is an ADDED TAX, not a redirection of your tax (like the check-box for public campaign financing on a US Income Tax form is a redirection of some of your tax).

I think you are the one who is ignorant of the issue here... either that or all the Germans quoted in all the articles I have read (who live there and actually have to pay the tax) are wrong.

I’m betting that it is you who is wrong, not the German taxpayers.


32 posted on 10/01/2012 2:39:22 AM PDT by samtheman (Obama. Mugabe. Chavez. (Obamugavez))
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To: dupree

The deal between me and the restaurant is between me and the restaurant. If I want to eat, I pay. Although there is (of course) an added sales tax, there is no direct intervention of the state collecting the restaurant bill. There isn’t a Menu Authority that I have to register with in order to place my order and there isn’t a State Payment Official who I pay the bill to.

Your analogy is just plain stupid. This is the church in league with the devil and shame on you for not seeing it for what it is.


33 posted on 10/01/2012 2:42:04 AM PDT by samtheman (Obama. Mugabe. Chavez. (Obamugavez))
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To: dupree

Nonsense. There are armed guards at the door to your restaurant, collecting the bill before I enter.

What I have a problem with is the Govt collecting a tax from me and handing it over to the church. Then the church has the gall to complain that I neither tithe nor make extra donations.

Hello!!! I think I already have given! When my dues are forced by law, don’t expect anything more.


34 posted on 10/01/2012 5:03:19 AM PDT by jimtorr
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To: samtheman

If I were an anti-cleric I’d devise a system where the church becomes dependent on state funds and force people to supply those funds by paying an additional tax if they declare themselves members.
You can see several benefits. First you discourage people from becoming members. Second you generate resentment among some members who would not resent freely giving on there own. Third you remove as much feeling of generosity as possible from those who give. The benefits for those who dislike religion just seem to go on and on.
I don’t know if you reduce your tax bill by renouncing church membership, but that choice seems to be the most important one for practical, social engineering consequences.


35 posted on 10/01/2012 6:24:28 AM PDT by conejo99
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To: jimtorr; samtheman

Obviously, Germany’s system is not our system and I am not endorsing it. But it’s their system, so they have to deal with it. I was addressing the ones that NEITHER pay the tax or donate. Remember, those people are paying NOTHING, but still want to take part in what the Church offers.

Reality check: churches cannot operate for free. Like every other operation they need money to survive. I see an aspect of this in my own church. Some people simply do not pay or underpay. I’m not talking about the ones that can’t afford it or the truly poor-—I’m talking about people that think nothing of spending 5 bucks on a coffee or 10 bucks for a movie and then ignore the collection plate on Sunday. They want others to foot the bill for them. If that idea is stupid or in the devil’s league, so be it.


36 posted on 10/01/2012 6:35:52 AM PDT by dupree
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To: dupree

If restaurants charged for prayer or blessings, I’d wouldn’t go there.
To compare people who claim to be men and women of God, to waiters is just plain weird.


37 posted on 10/01/2012 11:40:58 AM PDT by svcw (Why is one cell on another planet considered life, and in the womb it is not.)
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To: svcw

analogy=a comparison of certain similarities between two things which are otherwise unlike.


38 posted on 10/01/2012 10:16:27 PM PDT by dupree
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To: dupree

You missed it by a mile.


39 posted on 10/02/2012 6:25:46 AM PDT by svcw (Why is one cell on another planet considered life, and in the womb it is not.)
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