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 Post subject: The price of religion?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:23 am 
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of Vinyamar
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Interesting article from Reuters

Personally, I agree with this, but I can see it having fallout.


http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/ ... LX20120921


PARIS (Reuters)- Germany's Roman Catholic bishops have decreed that people who opt out of a "church tax" should not be given sacraments and religious burials, getting tougher on worshippers who choose not to pay.

Alarmed by a wave of dissenting Catholics quitting the faith, the bishops issued a decree on Thursday declaring such defection "a serious lapse" and listed a wide range of church activities from which they must be excluded.

Germans officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax of 8 or 9 percent of their annual tax bill. They can avoid this by declaring to their local tax office that they are leaving their faith community.

The annual total of church leavers, usually around 120,000, rocketed to 181,193 two years ago as revelations about decades of sexual abuse of children by priests shamed the hierarchy and prompted an apology from German-born Pope Benedict.

"This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church," a statement from the bishops conference said. "It is not possible to separate the spiritual community of the Church from the institutional Church."

Church taxes brought in about 5 billion euros ($6.5 billion) for the Roman Catholic Church and 4.3 billion euros for the Protestant churches in 2010, according to official statistics.

NO RELIGIOUS BURIAL

The bishops said the consequences of leaving the church had not been clearly spelled out in the past. Some Catholics have tried to remain active in their parish or have a religious burial despite leaving the church to avoid paying the tax.

The Vatican gave its approval for the decree before it was issued, the statement said.

Catholics who leave can no longer receive sacraments, except for a special blessing before death, the decree states.

They cannot work in the church or its institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or be active in church-sponsored associations such as charity groups or choirs.

They cannot be godparents for Catholic children and must get a bishop's permission to marry a Catholic in a church ceremony. "If the person who left the Church shows no sign of repentance before death, a religious burial can be refused," it added.

The bishops conference said local pastors would invite all leavers to meet to discuss their reasons for quitting, explain the consequences and offer a chance to rejoin the church.

PROTESTANT EXODUS

Germany's Protestant churches have also seen a steady exodus in recent decades as members - who become registered at baptism - leave because they no longer believe, disagree with some policy or want to save several hundred euros in church tax.

A major departure wave from both Catholic and Protestant churches occurred in the early 1990s, when the government raised taxes to finance ex-communist eastern Germany.

Since the levy was almost the same as the church tax - whose origins date back to the 19th century - Germans could neutralize the tax boost by quitting their church.

Catholics and Protestants are almost equally distributed in Germany, with each at about 24 million, or 30 percent of the 82 million population. There are about 4 million Muslims and 120,000 Jews in Germany which has a total population of almost 82 million.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:24 pm 
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Interesting. I am not Catholic - is there a "church tax" in the US? Most churches ask that their members "pledge" a certain amount at the beginning of the year...this is so that the organization can plan its fiscal year, which makes sense. But you don't HAVE to pledge to belong to the church, AFAIK.

I seem to remember that synagogues require payment for various things.

The RCC is a huge organization and as such, needs cash flow. If one belongs to an organization, it seems to make sense that one would help support it. In the case of a church, there is building upkeep, salaries, cleaning, flowers...lots of things and they all cost money.

Unless your church worships under a tree and has no overhead...if you belong, I think you should expect to contribute *something*.

As far as the church denying sacraments and etc to those who haven't contributed...that, to me, seems to be an anathema.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:41 pm 
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That seems completely antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.

I think to be a proper member (like officially registered) of the Methodist church my mom and I went to for a bit when I was a little kid, you had to pay dues. But you were never stopped from attending services or receiving communion (? I don't remember what methodists called it.. but "bread" and "wine" were passed around and everyone ate and drank at the same time, not going up individually). I sometimes helped out with music at a teacher's Lutheran church and I was always welcome to go take communion even though I wasn't a member (I refused given I'm an agnostic.)

Jewelsong wrote:
Unless your church worships under a tree and has no overhead...if you belong, I think you should expect to contribute *something*.


I agree with this, you should contribute. Something does not have to be money though. I notice they're barring people from participating in charity groups as well. That is seriously messed up. People should be allowed to contribute their time.

I feel this is using scare tactics to get people back into the church. They're denying things that makes some people afraid of what will happen to them after they die since they didn't partake or receive it. (I remember playing Easter service gigs at a Catholic church every year. It was a bit astonishing to see how packed the Church would get on that day [and Christmas] and how so many of the people left [I'm talking over half] after they received communion.) This may scare some people to pay up but I'd think it will alienate more.


Last edited by Erunáme on Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:42 pm 
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not something I would recommend
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Quote:
Germans officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax of 8 or 9 percent of their annual tax bill.


Wait, what? You gotta pay the government to go to church?? :scratch:

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:22 pm 
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From what I can gather Yov, the government collects the money and gives it to the churches?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:23 pm 
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The money goes to the churches. We have this handy Constitution that doesn't allow such things.

In the Lutheran church, they ask you to pledge, but you don't have to, and the pledge does not have to be kept (i.e., you are still welcome if it turns out you can't pay all of it). And it's private; the treasurer knows who pledged what and who is paying/not paying, but even the pastor does not.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:24 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Quote:
Germans officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax of 8 or 9 percent of their annual tax bill.


Wait, what? You gotta pay the government to go to church?? :scratch:


And you wondered why the "Establishment Clause" is there? :)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:38 pm 
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of Vinyamar
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What I find most interesting about this is that its not some nutjobs going rogue. This was sanctioned by the Vatican?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:12 pm 
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Is this new for you? It has always been like this, in my memory. It's a specific German thing, maybe. I'll tell more later, have to take the boy to guitare lessons.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:25 pm 
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Back in 1980, when my family moved to Germany for 9 months and tossed us kiddies into the local Gymnasium, all students had to choose between Catholic and Protestant religion class (which was mandatory). It was explained to us that mandatory religious study had been put into place after WW2, as a kind of antidote to any fascist thinking. But there were problems with this set-up. For one thing, the American family who had been at the school the year before we came had been Jewish. But their children had been required to define themselves as "Catholic" or "Protestant" to satisfy the religion class requirement.

It seemed to me that neither Catholicism nor Protestantism could really be counted on to undo all prejudices.

In biology class one day, slides of people of different races were projected onto a screen, and we students were supposed to call out typical physical characteristics of that race. I kid you not.

The problem really seemed to be the ABSENCE of people who were different: no Jews left, no people of different races. The Turkish children were all in a different school down the block, a "school for slow children," as someone helpfully told me. I still kid you not. So Turkish children were also absent from the lives of the Gymnasium students.

How segregated religious classes in public schools could possibly UNdo prejudice and intolerance really stumps me, I have to say!

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:11 pm 
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Synagogues depend on members contributing financially, as well as in other ways, since each represents an independent community. I can only speak for my own, but:

"Suggested" dues are 1% of income. The standard dues would come to more than that for many people, most of whom pay less. I have paid less than the standards dues in many of the years I was a member. When I could, I made it up with other donations. 9% mandatory contribution seems very, very high.

All materials for all programs say that no one will be turned away for inability to pay.

While I agree that everyone needs to contribute to their community, or else there won't be one, not every contribution need be in cash. Time and talent can do much that money can't.

While the synagogue provides many services for the members for free or at discount, none of these is considered a prerequisite for a happy afterlife. Requiring that people pay to receive spiritual gifts also seems strange to me.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:18 pm 
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Some Canadian provinces have both Protestant and Catholic school boards: these are PUBLIC schools. I think it's atrocious.

There are also many "private" religious schools, such as the Mennonite school Tay went to for grades 8 and 9. In BC, these private schools get some government funding, on the theory that they educate the kids at about half the cost of a public school.

Sure.

The Mennonite school probably does okay (although they teach that Evolution is a lie), but there are dozens of half-baked academies operated by other religious sects that are not much better than the madrassas operated by fanatical Muslims.

We do not otherwise have established religion and thankfully our politicians are not required to parade their "faith" in order to get elected. Not yet, anyway.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:16 pm 
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I think the 9% is being misrepresented here as 9% of income rather than 9% of taxes paid. I could be wrong though. Maybe Nin can fill us in.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:38 pm 
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I thought I've always heard that you're supposed to tithe 10% of your income to your church?


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:12 pm 
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I have no idea of the amount of church taxes in Germany, but I think it must 9% of taxes rather than 9% of income (in general taxes in Germany are not low).

The idea to pay the church in form of taxes is very old, at least in Germany and in fact a heritage from Roman Germanic Empire and the 30 years war. The aim was to make the church independant from the state and incomes from the Emperor and thus to guarantee the survival of the protestant regions, whereas the Emperor of the Roman Germanic Empire (I am not sure how it called in English "Holy Roman Empire of German Nation" - the empire of Charlemagne) was traditionnally a Habsburg, thus a catholic. It was a way to separate state and church!

The conflict between the Emperor and the church, first the Roman Catholic Church only, goes back as far as the 11th century when the question was arised who should name bishops and what should be the powers of an archbishop - remember that the Emperor was elected and not inherited, and an archbishop had a vote in that election. So, nominating a bishop could be a way for the pope to nominate an emperor who suited the RCC.

Anyway, this very, very old tradition has never really ceased, even under the Nazis.

In school, I have had religious instruction for protestant pupils -and the other half of my class for catholics. But his was religious instruction, so we learned about the bible and its contents, about other religions. In those lessons, we never prayed or anything alike. It is still tought in German schools. Once you had your religious confirmation, you can leave those lessons just by signing yourself, no parents agreement is necessary. (That's what I did). In some regions, if you don't follow religion, you have to follow ethics instead. Depending on the population at school, only protestant or catholic religion is offered, in other regions you also have jewish or muslim religion courses. But there have to be enough students. The courses of ethics tend to respond to the fact that nowadays most of the population is more or less atheist. Also, religious instruction is not about believe, but about knowledge. My teacher (and she was silly and boring) never once asked us if we believed in God!

Anyway, chucrch taxes are normally compulsory if you are a member of a religion. If you don't want to pay them, you have to leave this religion and fill in your tax form: atheist. By that, you forfeit all rights to religious services performed by pastors or priests, including a religious marriage or funeral. My father had left church and knowing that he was about to die, he wanted to reintegrate it to have a church burial. The first pastor refused - even if he went to see my dad in hospital, he said that it was not his taks to perform an administrative act for someone who had not paid his share for years. He was there without any hesitation for spiritual counsel, however. The pastor of his birth congregation accepted and so my father could be burried with a religious service. I found that cold-hearted from a church to refuse to integrate someone - but also logical. My dad was not a believer - he just wanted the ceremony, because it was familiar to him and I think it meant comfort when he knew, he would die to imagine his own funeral as something familiar.

This said, despite church being such an instituition and despite religious instruction in all schools, the religious orientation and believes of public figures plays no role at all. I could not imagine someone asking Angela Merkel if she believed in God. I think it would be difficult for Germany to have a jewish president or chancellor for historic reasons and certainly also for a muslim - but an atheist is no problem at all.

Anyway, the administrative side fo chruch - like burials - and the spiritual side are quite separated. And the church tax has the side effect that even long-term church projects can be planned, the income is sure. Pastors and priests are paid by this tax.

I have never lived in Germany as an adult and paid taxes there, but as a child, I never felt that the church ahd a big place in our lives or that through the religious instruction I was encouraged to believe in God.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:37 pm 
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I read the article to mean that if you are "registered" with the government as a member of a particular religion, you designate that 9 percent of your tax bill should be paid to your religion's institutions. If you opt out by removing your registration, you would pay the same tax bill but it would all go to the government.

While I find this procedure highly objectionable, there is an argument that there is some analogy to the US practice of making donations to one's religious institution "charitable" and thus tax-deductible. In this case, too, the government is forgoing part of its tax income for the sake of a religious institution - although the American system is less institutionalized than the German practice.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 9:04 pm 
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Nin, thank you for the history lesson.

Nel and Al, thank you for clarification. 9% of tax indeed makes much better sense. But if the tax bill is the same, why did the increase in taxes affect the number of people paying the churh tax as the quoted article states?

Quote:
A major departure wave from both Catholic and Protestant churches occurred in the early 1990s, when the government raised taxes to finance ex-communist eastern Germany.

Since the levy was almost the same as the church tax - whose origins date back to the 19th century - Germans could neutralize the tax boost by quitting their church.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:20 pm 
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Frelga, a fair question. Hopefully Nin or Lhaewin will clarify.

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I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:36 pm 
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If you leave church, you don't pay those 9% at all. You pay less taxes.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:10 pm 
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Wow, okay. Then this sounds like a voluntary donation program (rather oddly) administered by the government rather than a mandatory tax.

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I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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