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January 24, 2022
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Civil society divided over church funding

While some NGOs advocate the financing of some church activities from tax payers’ money, others urge Parliament to stop public financing of churches because it is too costly.

A total of 33 NGOs have written a public letter to the members of Parliament saying that the financing of specific activities of churches from the state budget is not a violation of tax-payers’ freedom of belief  and is in line with the law and practice in most EU member states. This letter is intended as a reply to the public message sent out on Tuesday by 22 NGOs urging the Parliament to stop the financing of churches ‘with approximately EUR 540 M every year, which equals 0.4 per cent of Romania’s GDP’, and asking that the money released in that way is invested in health, research and education.  ’(…) The latest census showed that almost 99 per cent of the Romanian population is religious, atheists and agnostics only representing 0.2 per cent. Under such conditions, we ask whether the representatives of those NGOs – meaning the 0.2 per cent of Romanians – are entitled to decide what priorities are and what should be financed for the rest of us 99 per cent, most of whom are members of the Romanian Orthodox Church’, say the representatives of the 33 NGOs quoted by Mediafax. They warn about the fact that the partnership between the state and the Church is not a recent invention and that the importance of the Church had been stressed even by King Carol I in his will. In the same letter, the authors remind that, in Greece, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Finland – EU member states – the predominant Church is considered as the State Church. ‘Generally there is either direct state support (for example in Denmark, Ireland and Norway), or indirect support, meaning that the state collects the contribution from believers and redistributes the money to every church, as they do it in Finland, Germany and Sweden. In addition, the Churches in most European countries are excempted from the payment of many taxes, including the property tax’.
The other 22 NGOs asking the Parliament not to fund Churches claim ‘it is abnormal in a secular state to have hundreds of million of euros to be taken away from actual needs of the country and hijacked from national and local budgets by the Churches’, noting that they are private organisations and therefore ought to finance themselves from volunteer congregation contributions.

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