Jesus already had clear ideas about a sharp separation between church and state – at least when it comes to finances. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” he is quoted as saying in the Gospel of Mark.
Some 2,000 years later, Germany is still looking for such a distinct separation. Unlike in the United States, where the separation of church and state is guaranteed by the Constitution, Germany mixes the two. Christian holidays are national holidays with mandated work closures. Religious institutions are supported by a so-called religion or church tax, which is paid by those who declare their religious affiliation to local authorities where they live.
Today, the state collects the church tax, and taxpayers can even deduct the church taxes they pay as special expenses. At the same time, the state funds religious communities year after year through various direct and indirect contributions in a high, nine-figure sum; these payments, however, have no central, transparent listing anywhere.
This chaotic financial relationship, which has proliferated over the years, needs to be examined, uncluttered and reordered. Also, there should be no taboos about questioning whether the state should even be collecting church taxes.