Parliamentary question E-2570/03 by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Bolkestein on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission
(6 August 2003)

Subject: Church tax compulsorily levied by the Federal Republic of Germany on unemployment benefit paid to unemployed people who do not belong to the Church

Knowing that:

— in Germany, significant sums are deducted in the form of church tax from unemployed people without any religious affiliation, who are thus obliged to provide financial support for an organisation to which they do not belong;

— this situation appears all the more incredible given that the German Constitution explicitly prohibits anyone being prejudiced or placed at a disadvantage because they do not belong to a religious community;

— the compulsory levying of church tax among unemployed people without any religious affiliation violates the following provisions of the German Constitution:

(a) Article 3(1) and (3) of the Basic Law, which stipulate that no one may be "favoured or disfavoured" because of his or her philosophical or religious opinions;

(b) Article 4(1), which provides that "freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, shall be inviolable";

(c) Article 33, which enshrines the fundamental obligation of State neutrality.

— the Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that unemployed people without any religious affiliation may indeed be required to pay this tax as long as a clear majority of employed people belong to the Church. However, it might be pointed out that, according to the judgment of the Bundessozialgericht (Federal Social Court) of 8 November 2001, 49 % of Germany's active population did not pay church tax in 1999.

Given that this arrangement runs counter:

— to the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution,

— to the principle of equal treatment and the obligation of State neutrality and

the principle of the separation of Church and State,

Does the Commission not take the view that the situation described contravenes the acquis communautaire?

What formal initiatives might the EU take vis-à-vis Germany if this situation cannot be resolved, in order to ensure that the principle of religious freedom is respected?

Answer given by Mr Bolkestein
on behalf of the Commission
(written question: E-2570/03)
(15 September 2003)

The matter to which reference is made does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Community.