November 2012 Church & State | AU Bulletin


A German court has said that Catholics who want access to religious activities and ceremonies must pay a tax to the church, the German newspaper Deutsche Welle has reported.

The Leipzig Federal Administrative Court said in September that Germans have to pay the tax if they want to be church members, Deutsche Welle said.

The case was filed in 2007 on behalf of a retired church law professor, Hartmut Zapp. He argued that membership in the church was based on belief and not money. The court didn’t agree, however, saying that anyone who leaves the church voluntarily is no longer a member as far as Germany is concerned, regardless of why they left. 

The church tax system dates to the 19th century. Under it, all Germans who want to officially register as Catholics, Protestants or Jews must pay a tax of 8-9 percent.

German bishops came out in support of the tax system, saying that anyone who doesn’t pay the tax can’t participate in many church activities, including a special blessing before death and burial rights, nor can they work for the church.