Does the German Church Tax Still Make Sense in 2012?

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

Germany’s age old Church tax restrictions were recently challenged in a Leipzig court after a retired church law professor filed a legal case back in 2007.  Hartmut Zapp believed he had the right to continue practicing his Catholic faith by praying and taking Holy Communion despite him not paying the 8-9% tax every year.  His argument was based on the Catholic doctrine which states that membership to the church is based on belief and not financial giving.  The Leipzig court did not see it this way however, and it held to its stance that if you don’t pay up, your rights to any church perks will be revoked.

To Americans this concept may be seen as a shock, but the German’s have been following this tax rule since the 19th century.  If you want to belong to the Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish faith, you must pay up.  While the Germans have put up with the law for many years, there is a growing trend of people throwing in the towel and leaving the church to avoid paying.  126,000 Germans in 2011 alone have left the church, and the Catholic bishops are starting to get concerned for the loss of tax revenue.

So what are people giving up when they “leave the faith” in order to stop paying the church tax?  The Catholic church is trying to make it clear to the Germans that not paying will result in losing all rights to religious activities.  Offenders will still be allowed to attend mass, but confessions, communion, parish activities, and the right to work in a Catholic school or hospital will be taken away.  While they will not technically be excommunicated from the church, the strict limitations get pretty close to doing just that.

This recent ruling will surely not be the last time the tax is challenged in a German court.  While it may have made sense several hundred years ago, it will be harder and harder to justify in the years ahead.  Germany’s culture is continuing to move in a direction that is less strict on these issues, and if the church starts to see a more drastic drop in membership, they may be forced to reconsider their tax.

What do you think?  Does the German Church tax still make sense in 2012?  Let us know in the comments below.


Source: Deutsche Welle
Photo by lostajy via flickr 

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Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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