This Alliance to abolish state benefits under the old law (BASTA) sends open letters to 14 federal states, which, despite their constitutional mandate, still hand over the so-called state services for religious communities (churches). This year alone, the sum paid for complex historical reasons is around € 602 million.
In fact, state benefits should have been completed in 1919 – this was the case in the constitution of the Weimar Reich and it is also the case in the Basic Law. However, the explicit constitutional mandate was ignored for more than 100 years, such that the mandatory substitution became ultimately an unacceptable permanent payment to the churches. State payments are often justified as compensation for the expropriation of church property long before the separation of church and state in Germany.
BASTA however, he has serious doubts about this narrative. “That is why we asked the Länder to prove the alleged expropriations,” explains Friedrich Coradill, press spokesman BASTA. So far, supporters of the (high) transfer fee have not provided such evidence. Against this background, having paid a total of almost 20 billion euros since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, it can be said: Church and state have long been even, so a symbolic transfer fee of at most one euro can be considered.
Coradill therefore says: “Over 10 billion euros are planned to be exchanged under the previous FDP, Greens and Left Party draft bill. But why? The main purpose of the replacement was to free the financial ties between state and church and the non-threatening churches had long since become obsolete since the introduction of the church tax. Today, on average for the entire country, government payments only account for about 2 percent of a church’s income. ” Coradill continues: “People are rightly irritated by wasting tax money, for example in the context of the road toll case, which probably costs a good 500 million, but that on this scale, unnecessary payments are made annually by all citizens, including non-denominational, to churches almost nobody knows. It must stop at last.
In its open letter, the Alliance welcomes the fact that the federal government is finally addressing this issue in order to fulfill its constitutional mandate. Coradill, however, criticizes the fact that negotiations should only take place between the federal government and churches: “A bill should not be negotiated behind closed doors; it is about a constitutional mandate that has been ignored for too long, which still costs citizens a lot of money and where there are many factual and legal points of conflict, therefore a transparent and broad public discourse is essential. “
prof. Jörg Scheinfeld, Executive Director Institute of Worldview Law (ifw)who formulated the amendment to the above-mentioned of the bill, he explains in relation to the frequently raised objection: “If the state wants to financially strengthen hospitals, schools and social institutions, pointless, unconstitutional subsidies to churches are hardly a means of choice. The “Caritas Legend” that all money from churches is donated to charity is false – the costs are almost entirely covered by the state. “
The alliance BASTA asks the 14 finance ministers concerned to provide by 29 July 2022 information on state payments estimated in state budgets from 1947 to 1949 as a basis for calculating any transfer fees and specific information on allegedly expropriated church property. In the case of some Länder, this data can even lead to claims for advance payments for transfers or overpaid state benefits. In conclusion, Coradill emphasizes: “We are interested in a constructive discourse and willingly offer our knowledge as a partner in dialogue.”