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James Barclay wrote:

Hi, guys —

In Germany there is the Church Tax (Kirchensteuer) assessed each year to members of the Roman Catholic Church.

The state supposedly derives 7-10% of its revenue from the millions of Catholics in Germany and it is law. It is unopposed by the Church and is very unpopular among the Catholic populous. We've never had such laws here in the US.

  • What do you think about this issue?


  { What do you think about Germany assessing an annual tax on members of the Catholic Church? }

Mike replied:

Dear James,

I'll make my answer simple.

This is crazy and would be rejected in the United States.

My colleagues may have more to add.


John replied:

Dear James,

See the Wikipage on this for a further explanation.

The tax goes to support the religious communities. In some cases, the government imposes the tax, in other cases, the communities chose to collect it themselves. There are several nations that do this.

In Greece, for example, the government pays the salaries of the Greek Orthodox Priests.


A friend, Anonymous Andrew replied:


The Wikipedia article on Church Tax has some helpful information about this system which exists in several countries of Europe, including Germany and Italy.

The article discusses the historical roots of the practice and other aspects such as:

  • the amount of the tax, and
  • the treatment of people with no church affiliation.

In some countries, the Church tax system exists to compensate the churches for past cases in which the government took over church properties.

As a matter of opinion, there are some negative aspects to the Church tax system.

For example, in Germany the Church is quite affluent, but it is dependent on this system for much of its income. Hence it is dependent on the tax donations of people who do not attend church and do not hold the Catholic faith very strongly.

Critics say that this dependence leads the clergy to avoid teaching unpopular aspects of Catholic moral doctrine.


John replied:

Actually while the federal government has never supported a denomination or Church, this was not the case for the original thirteen states. The First Amendment of the Constitution, as understood at the time of its writing, forbid Congress or the federal government from making laws establishing a federal religion. It did not apply to states so many of the original States did, in fact, have State-supported religions.

Check out this web page.

The States eventually did away with this practice and with passage of the 14th Amendment. The First Amendment became applicable to the each state government as well.

The states all allowed for freedom of religion but many of them had official State Religions. I believe New Hampshire was the last state to change this in 1887. They supported Congregationalism. Maryland officially had Anglicanism until 1867.

These churches received taxpayer funding, though I don't believe the states only taxed the members of that denomination.


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