Billions in transfers under discussion: Ampel wants to end state payments to churches

Status: 02/04/2023 1:42 p.m

Anyone who pays taxes in Germany indirectly finances the salaries of bishops and parishioners – even if they have left the church. Churches have been receiving money from the state for over 200 years – around 600 million euros last year alone. But that should soon be over.

By Selina Bölle and Christina Zühlke

A queue had already formed in the hallway of the Cologne district court in the morning. Everyone waiting here wants out of the Church resign, also Dominik. The 30-year-old Catholic says he doesn’t want to help finance the church’s handling of the abuse: “I can’t reconcile that with my conscience.”

Churches get hundreds of millions a year from the state

What is not clear to Dominik is that even after leaving, he will continue to pay money to the two major churches, so-called state benefits. They go back to the 19th century. In Napoleon’s time, churches had to cede property to secular princes. An annual compensation payment was agreed for this – which will also be paid in 2023. It’s supposed to be abolished a long time ago – but that hasn’t happened to date.

Over 20 billion euros since 1949

Lars Castellucci, spokesman for religious policy for the SPD

Image: WDR/Benno Kraehahn

For Lars Castellucci from the SPD it is clear that this has to end: “because it is hardly communicable in today’s world and because there is a constitutional mandate that clearly says that this should have been ended long ago”.

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The sticking point: the amount of the transfer fee

The traffic light government now wants to trigger the churches, but not simply cancel the payments. The churches should get another chunk of money. From this and from the interest they should be able to continue to finance their tasks, Castellucci told WDR: “I believe that the churches in this country can do something that we just can’t do politically. They organize cohesion, they create orientation.”

Critics: Churches have long had enough

“It’s enough”: lawyer Ingrid Matthäus-Meier

Image: WDR/Ingrid Matthäus-Meier

A number that is in the room as a transfer fee: 11 billion euros. Far too much, argues the lawyer and former SPD financial politician Ingrid Matthäus-Meier. “If you’ve been collecting something for over 100 years that should have been replaced by now, I’m convinced that that’s enough.” That should also be laid down in law.

Fewer and fewer members

In principle, EKD is prepared to make cuts

Image: WDR/Christina Zühlke

Anne Gidion disagrees. The EKD representative in Berlin told WDR that even if the churches paid 11 billion euros, they would have to limit their offer to the general public. “Church kindergartens, schools or hospitals, refugee aid, these are all things where nobody asks about membership.”

In principle, the EKD agrees with the end of state benefits – “but it must be done in a way that does not render the budgets of the regional churches, which in some cases depend heavily on them, incapable of acting”.

Charities funded by the state

The state services make up only a small part of the church budgets; Caritas and Diakonie are almost entirely financed by the state. And: Church tax alone amounted to around 13 billion euros last year.

that he further Steer Dominik finds it inappropriate to have to pay for an institution that he consciously left. The church should finance itself completely. “The fact that she does it with our tax money, especially if you don’t agree, is somehow encroaching.”

Negotiations on state benefits

2/4/2023 6:31 p.m

This year the cornerstones should be in place

The federal government is still negotiating with churches and states. She intends to present a bill later this year. Then it will also become clear how expensive it will be for taxpayers.


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