German legislators consider ending state payments to churches

The right of the churches to levy a church tax from their members would not be affected by phasing out state benefits to the churches (CNS/Harald Oppitz, KNA)

Germany is considering replacing state payments to Catholic and Lutheran churches, which received combined benefits of more than $US650 million in 2020. Source: CNS.

At a hearing in the interior affairs committee of the Bundestag, or lower house of Parliament, they welcomed in principle the intention of legislation by the opposition liberal Free Democratic Party, the Greens and the Left Party and pointed out that it was in line with a constitutional mandate to abolish the payments, which date back to a 19th-century provision.

By contrast, a number of legal experts said an alternative bill by the Alternative for Germany party to simply phase out the benefits was unconstitutional, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.

The bill by the three parties aims to create the necessary framework for agreements between the federal states, which currently make the payments, and the Catholic dioceses and Protestant regional churches.

Most of the state payments date back to 1803, when German imperial princes received expropriated church property as compensation for a loss of territory. In return, the princes paid the churches money on a regular basis.

The right of the churches to levy contributions, or a church tax, from their members has nothing to do with these state benefits, KNA reported.

Since 1919, the constitution has called for these benefits to be replaced. The prerequisite for this would be agreements with the churches at the federal and state level as well as corresponding laws. However, the churches would have to receive high redemption sums for this, which is why most of the federal states have so far refrained from taking the step.

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German legislators consider ending state payments to churches (CNS

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