Premier Christian News reports on an interesting story out of Germany about thousands of people leaving their faith because of the country’s ‘church tax.’
Germany is one of a handful of countries in the world, including Austria, Denmark, and Italy, that imposes a ‘worship’ or ‘church’ tax on its citizens.
It is a form of income tax and depending on where a person lives, the tax can range from 8% of income in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria to 9% in the remaining states.
Since it was first implemented in 1919, German citizens pay the tax if they are registered as a member of a protestant and Catholic Church or as a member of the Jewish faith.
This also includes anyone who has been christened or married in a German church.
Churches, including Evangelical, can then apply to receive funding from the ‘worship tax’ and those eligible typically receive about 70% of their income from the state’s church tax.
According to Simplegermany.com, in 2020, the German government paid out 12.1 billion Euros to protestant and Catholic churches.
However, not all churches or religious groups receive funding in this way and because of this, the government does not require their members to pay the tax. This includes members of the Orthodox, Baptist, and Salvation Army churches.
But under German law, a person can also pay a small fee and apply to be exempt from paying the tax by officially declaring that they are no longer a member of a taxable religious group.
Premier Christian News writes that a 2021 report stated that nearly half a million Germans applied to be exempt from this tax in 2019. The report added that an additional third were considering leaving their faith because of the required tax payment.
When a person moves to Germany, they are also required to fill out of form indicating their religious preference. If they state no church affiliation, the government does not require payment of the church tax.
However, there have been incidents of church’s challenging a person’s exemption.
SimplyGermany.com reports on the case of an Italian person who had moved to Germany for four years.
On his form, he claimed no religious affiliation and was therefore exempt from paying the ‘worship tax’.
However, a Roman Catholic Church in Germany knew enough about this young man to contact his home church in Italy and found out he had been a member of that church.
The church successfully challenged the exemption, requiring the man to pay hundreds of Euros in back church taxes.
Money has always been a touchy issue with Christians, and compelling a person to contribute seems to contravene the advice the Apostle Paul provided about giving.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle gave four guiding principles on giving:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV)
The four principles include:
- Those who give generously will reap generously.
- Don’t give money under compulsion or guilt.
- Decide in your own heart how much you want to give. This is your choice.
- And what ever you choose to give, make sure you can give it cheerfully. In other words, do not resent the amount you are donating.