Church Tax: Are Churches Criminal Organizations?

There are the most bizarre reasons why people don’t want to pay church taxes. In one process from 1989 it was: a witch burning. Is that enough? Lawyer Arnd Diringer on a legendary judgment.

“In Germany, the tax part drive is more pronounced than the sex drive,” said Siegmar Gabriel, then Federal Minister of Economics. But there are also other reasons why some don’t want to pay taxes.

This is shown by a case decided by the Munich Finance Court (file number 13 K 2047/89). Here a manufacturer refused to withhold church tax for his employees and pay it to the tax office because one of his ancestors was burned at the stake in 1664.

Church tax as an “enforced debt collection service”?

“The memory of this more than inhuman treatment in the delusion of faith of these religious communities made it subjectively impossible for him, as a direct successor, to perform debt collection services to further enrich these religious communities,” says the decision.

The entrepreneur therefore submitted the application to exempt him from the “enforced debt collection service for criminally active religious societies, here specifically (the) Roman Catholic and (the) Protestant religious society” until further notice.

Churches not responsible

That’s not how it works, said the tax court and initially instructed him on criminal law:

“Neither the Roman Catholic nor the Protestant Church are criminal organizations within the meaning of ยงยง 129, 129a StGB, the establishment and support of which is punishable in these regulations. This is not because their purpose or activity is not based on them directed to commit crimes or crimes such as murder, manslaughter or genocide. “

Arnd Diringer is a professor of law and teaches at Ludwigsburg University. In addition to numerous specialist publications, he is the author of the books #ArbeitsRechtKurios and #AllesRechtKurios, in which he presents and comments on amusing cases from German courtrooms.
This article comes from the book #AllesRechtKurios, published by Huss Medien.

And not only that: the churches are not responsible for the death of the woman who was burned to death over 250 years ago – at least not in the legal sense. Because “the ancestor of the plaintiff (was) not publicly burned as a ‘witch’ by the church or churches, but by the secular judiciary of a sub-state of the then ‘Holy Roman Empire’ (…). Neither the churches nor the Free State of Bavaria nor the FRG are direct legal successors of the state institutions of the time that pronounced and enforced the judgment against the plaintiff’s ancestor. “

Which refuted the plaintiff’s arguments – at least from the point of view of the Munich court.

From today’s perspective

But couldn’t the descendants of a burned “witch” be exempted from the duty to withhold and pay church tax contributions for reasons of equity?

No, says the tax court, “even if” the killing of the woman “should have been an injustice from today’s perspective”. Mind you: “should have acted”, not “acted”. So the Bavarian dish doesn’t seem to be entirely certain.

It does not matter anyway. Because despite the sometimes curious justifications of the tax court, the process for the entrepreneur was still better than that of his ancestor: In a constitutional state, only money is burned in bizarre legal proceedings.

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