In Germany, being an official church member usually means paying an extra tax. But a change in the country’s tax code is now causing many believers to leave the fold.
Germany is just one of a number of European countries where members of the main organized religions pay a special levy on income to provide the bulk of churches’ finances. But when a loophole concerning income from capital gains closes next year, church leaders have good reason to expect an exodus.
So far this year, the number of Germans leaving the country’s Protestant and Catholic churches has reached its highest level in 20 years, twice last year’s level””a surge many clergy and finance experts blame on the changes in how the tax is levied.
The outflow is now fueling a debate about whether a levy that goes back to the 19th century is an appropriate way to finance churches in an increasingly secularized Germany.