Court Upholds Germany's 'Catholic Tax'

German faithful pay between 8% and 9% of their income
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2012 8:50 AM CDT
Pope Benedict XVI arrives for a meeting with Catholics in Freiburg, southern Germany, during an official visit last year.   (AP Photo/Miro Kuzmanovic, pool)

(Newser) – You can't be a Catholic in Germany if you don't pay "church tax," a federal court has ruled. Germany requires people registered as Catholics, Protestants, or Jews to pay an extra tax worth 8% to 9% of their income tax bill, but the law was challenged by a retired professor who said he wanted to remain within the Catholic faith without paying the tax, the BBC reports. The professor argued that church membership was determined by a person's beliefs, not by a financial relationship.

The church, which received $6.4 billion from German taxpayers last year, warned that anybody who refused to pay up would be denied Holy Communion and a religious burial, as well as being barred from working for the church and its schools. Critics of the ruling said Germany's bishops were sending the wrong message by taking a hard line on the tax when the church is already in crisis. As in other countries, large numbers of Catholics in Germany have left the church in recent years amid sexual abuse scandals. (Read more Germany stories.)

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