28 September 2012

What would Martin Luther say?

I was surprised to discover recently that governments in Europe collect taxes for churches and other religions. In Germany, for example, taxpayers pay between 8 and 9 per cent of their income tax to the religious community to which they belong. Religions may choose to collect the tax themselves, in which case they may demand that the government reveal the tax data of their members so they can calculate the contributions owed.

A taxpayer may opt out of the tax by signing an official declaration that he or she is leaving the faith. Apparently, with the recent revelations of child abuse by priests, Catholics are increasingly doing just that. This does not please the Church—the tax provides about 70 per cent of its revenues.

In order to teach these slackers a lesson, it has issued a decree denying them the sacraments and religious burials.This would seem reasonable; after all, they are declaring they are leaving the Church (even though apparently some of them are attempting to remain active in their parish). Nonetheless, the Church has been accused of "selling the sacraments" with the decree going "beyond the sale of indulgences that Luther denounced."

My question is why European governments are still holding out the collection plate for religions in the 21st century. Didn't we separate the two generations ago?

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