Many German Christians now quit church to avoid paying tax

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Tequila
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30 Apr 2013, 4:28 am

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Many German Christians quit church to avoid tax

In his chic, modern apartment in the former East Berlin, Stefan Faulstroh wants to know what tea I want so he can select the appropriate water temperature. He’s an engineer. You wouldn’t have guessed. Makes trains. I wouldn’t want to be so crass as to ask how much he earns but judging by the look of his place, it’s quite a lot. Stefan, though, no longer pays the church tax that used to gobble up four percent of his salary.

Was it really the money, I ask. Or was it loss of faith? No, he says, it was the money. “So now do you sometimes sneak into church nevertheless? At Christmas maybe, or Easter?” Yes, he says, as a matter of fact he does. “Does he feel guilty?” He puts the question for me. “Not really.” But sometimes he wonders if he shouldn’t go back and become a church member again. “Obviously, when you die, no priest is going to come to your funeral so that’s a downside but that’s a few years from now.”

Tall, impressively bald and dressed in a striking tweed suit he says he bought in a church bazaar, Pastor Johann Hinrich Claussen, Dean of the Hamburg region, says he keeps an eye out for tax dodgers. Especially wealthy tax dodgers. And gives me a piercing look as if I might be one myself.


I find it rather ludicrous and astonishing, in this day and age, that a church has the legal power of law to tax people in this way.



John_Browning
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30 Apr 2013, 4:47 am

That doesn't sound like sound doctrine.


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30 Apr 2013, 4:53 am

In Austria you have similar.

Quote:
that a church has the legal power of law to tax people in this way.
When the law was created by old Adis (= Hitler) comerades, it was less about giving the church power and more about "That f*****g church always annoys me with funding money for such nonsense stuff like aiding refugees and so on. Only because people were used to it from earlier times that a christian government funds the church with such things. But because I declare christian stuff as nonsense and declare myself as ruler of my own Adi church, I dont want to get bothered with that christian stuff anymore, so lets simply invent a tax that every christian person has to pay, and that goes directly to the church." Hitler simply wanted to get rid of the church and christian ways in his government, because as long as his government would have been linked to being "a government of a christian country" many of his politics was hard to explain to church people, that often opposed him. So he had massive issues specially with some cardinals of the catholic church. By inventing this tax, he freed himself and his government of every christian tradition, so people could no longer expect that he would care for christian traditions, when the church didnt get funded any longer by the government, but by their own tax.

When the war ended, people already were used to it, so the chruch easily could forget to uninvent the tax. ^^ If it helps, the tax isnt very high (I work as engineet and pay about 150 EUR in the year.) and they are normally not so bad about it, so if you are still studying, have lost your job, whatever, child got cancer, so anyway which cause that you dont have money, they normally have no problem if you cant pay for an amount of time. The church as radical tax collector, forcing you to sell your house, would be pretty bad media for them. ^^



bryanmaloney
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30 Apr 2013, 11:10 am

More details on the history:

Funding of religion in Europe is a tricky business, primarily because of the revolutions of the 17th-19th centuries. In those areas dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, that institution was a major feudal landholder. Bishops were essentially landed nobility (usually non-hereditary), with the added power of extra-legal authority. So, once the revolutions, counter-revolutions and revanchisms took hold, every single country (including staunchly "Catholic" countries like "Holy Roman Empire", aka Austria) ended up seeing the Roman Catholic Church lose its landholding status, either by being disestablished (country adopted Protestantism as official) or dispossessed (Catholic church still official, but lost lands and government posts). A dominant church that cannot fund itself was supremely unpopular with the mass of the people. Thus, in a move that was, oddly enough, among the more democratic taken, these European countries had government take over religious funding. Remember, actual toleration of religious diversity within a single country did not exist in Europe at the time.

Fast-forward to the 20th century, and Germany's church tax is just a modernization of this practice. It's an obsolete relic, but it can't just be tossed. When it was adopted, it was progressive. That's the problem with "progressive" governments. Today's forward-thinking act can be tomorrow's oppressive relic, but it will never be discarded, because governments do not voluntarily give up power.



visagrunt
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30 Apr 2013, 1:11 pm

In North America we have taken the approach of spending tax expenditures on charitable giving.

While it may be voluntary, and applies to all registered charities whether religious or otherwise, it is nonetheless a public expenditure on behalf of religious institutions. The German approach is simply more direct and transparent.


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Tequila
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30 Apr 2013, 1:37 pm

visagrunt wrote:
In North America we have taken the approach of spending tax expenditures on charitable giving.


Fake charities are a problem in the UK too.



visagrunt
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30 Apr 2013, 2:12 pm

Tequila wrote:
visagrunt wrote:
In North America we have taken the approach of spending tax expenditures on charitable giving.


Fake charities are a problem in the UK too.


Who said anything about fake? Assuming that the revenue department is doing its job and delisting ineligible charities, all tax deductions or credits for charitable giving are government expenditure on behalf of charitable purposes.


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Jacoby
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30 Apr 2013, 2:21 pm

It seems the state is doing the dirty work for the church. I do not care if they want to charge for membership but they should collect the fees themselves.



PsychoSarah
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30 Apr 2013, 2:36 pm

Is it just for Christians? Or all churches?



1000Knives
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30 Apr 2013, 3:02 pm

PsychoSarah wrote:
Is it just for Christians? Or all churches?


I believe it's only for the Lutheran Church. I think some other churches in Europe have the same arrangement, they're usually Lutheran or Reformed churches. There's also "Free Churches" which were made to protest the tax and/or state and church bond. If you were, say, Pentecostal or nondenominational, you'd not have to pay the tax.



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30 Apr 2013, 3:04 pm

I say, treat all religious institutions everywhere like any other money-grubbing corporation and tax them accordingly!


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1000Knives
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30 Apr 2013, 3:09 pm

Fnord wrote:
I say, treat all religious institutions everywhere like any other money-grubbing corporation and tax them accordingly!


I don't think so. I know my church, if we had to pay taxes, we'd not exist right now. We're that broke. We'd have to come up with more money grubbing hair brained schemes to stay in existence. As it is now, our tithes are so little we rent out what used to be the old parsonage to people, and rent our old hall out also for most of the income. My priest and his wife have to work IT jobs at home.



NewDawn
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30 Apr 2013, 3:13 pm

1000Knives wrote:
PsychoSarah wrote:
Is it just for Christians? Or all churches?


I believe it's only for the Lutheran Church.


No, for all (traditional) churches. As Schneekugel explained, they also have it in Austria. Southern Germany and Austria are predominantly Catholic. Lutheranism is more prevalent in the north.



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30 Apr 2013, 3:26 pm

1000Knives wrote:
Fnord wrote:
I say, treat all religious institutions everywhere like any other money-grubbing corporation and tax them accordingly!


I don't think so. I know my church, if we had to pay taxes, we'd not exist right now. We're that broke. We'd have to come up with more money grubbing hair brained schemes to stay in existence. As it is now, our tithes are so little we rent out what used to be the old parsonage to people, and rent our old hall out also for most of the income. My priest and his wife have to work IT jobs at home.


Agreed. It's the denominations with relatively few members that have a hard time. In a way, that's really a shame. They can add to the religious diversity of a country, which could do a lot for religious tolerance. For the same reason your Orthodox church struggles, the liberal interfaith churches such as the Unitarian Universalists also struggles. While I'm not religious, I'm a friend of the Remonstrant Church (church deeply embedded in Dutch history and only found here) that is a non dogmatic church and welcomes every faith or lack thereof. But in the Netherlands, churches pay tax over any profit they make. It seems to me the best solution. Churches ought to be non profit.



1000Knives
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30 Apr 2013, 3:34 pm

NewDawn wrote:
1000Knives wrote:
Fnord wrote:
I say, treat all religious institutions everywhere like any other money-grubbing corporation and tax them accordingly!


I don't think so. I know my church, if we had to pay taxes, we'd not exist right now. We're that broke. We'd have to come up with more money grubbing hair brained schemes to stay in existence. As it is now, our tithes are so little we rent out what used to be the old parsonage to people, and rent our old hall out also for most of the income. My priest and his wife have to work IT jobs at home.


Agreed. It's the denominations with relatively few members that have a hard time. In a way, that's really a shame. They can add to the religious diversity of a country, which could do a lot for religious tolerance. For the same reason your Orthodox church struggles, the liberal interfaith churches such as the Unitarian Universalists also struggles. While I'm not religious, I'm a friend of the Remonstrant Church (church deeply embedded in Dutch history and only found here) that is a non dogmatic church and welcomes every faith or lack thereof. But in the Netherlands, churches pay tax over any profit they make. It seems to me the best solution. Churches ought to be non profit.


The Greek churches do pretty well, but the OCA churches don't do as well. A priest was telling me his salary in a Greek church would be like 60K, whereas OCA is like 20K.

I guess taxing over profit is a decent idea. I do think the church should have some leftover money, too, imo, just in case of emergencies or whatnot. I don't know how that'd be taxed. USA in general is really lax with taxing any non-profit groups, though. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases ... 21967.html Like Ralph Nader's group for example. So I don't think it's quite a matter of "those evil religious groups stealing tons of money, muahahaha." Just people tend to get more bitter about religion than Ralph Nader.



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30 Apr 2013, 3:44 pm

So what if a few more religious institutions fall by the wayside due to lack of income? It's not like they're offering a commodity that people can't obtain for themselves, right? Just open up your respective "Holy" books and read what's there. If you believe it, great! If you don't, then that's okay, too. Religion should be a personal matter, anyway - just like politics or sexuality.