Cutting state support for the churches

By Simon Barrow
May 14, 2008

The Catholic Church was once central to Spanish life. But Spain is changing — just like its European neighbours, says the US-based international magazine, Newsweek.

Its article 'The Closing of the Church Door' quotes Ekklesia.

"Three decades ago, just days after Spain's new post-Franco Constitution took effect, the new government promised the Vatican that despite an official separation of church and state it would continue Franco's old practice of financially assisting Spain's Roman Catholic Church until it could stand on its own. Spain is still paying. Through subsidies, exemptions and tax breaks, the government has paid the church an estimated €5 billion per year to fund its schools, and for the upkeep of church property and Catholic facilities in prisons and hospitals.

But the Spanish government is now loosening the binds between the church and the state. Amid growing religious apathy nationwide, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2006 eliminated the church's exemption from paying the value-added tax, as well as the government's largely symbolic guarantee that it would cover any shortfall between what taxpayers donated to the church and the church's €144 million budget that year. Now he is moving ahead with a series of distinctly secular projects, including introducing sexual-education classes in school...

"In some ways Zapatero's moves are emblematic of a shift around Western Europe. While Islam has become an increasingly large part of Europe's religious world, secularization is also on the rise among Christians. Governments are scrambling to deal with both trends, often by cutting state support for Christian churches, while extending support to other major religions on the premise that by supporting all religions, none enjoys official sanction. Germany, for instance, has long funded Christian-education classes in public schools, and is now extending that support to religious education for others, including Muslims."


"What we're now seeing is the end of what was historically called Christendom in Europe," says Jonathan Bartley, of the British think tank Ekklesia, which analyzes religious and social policies. "This has been the result of large-scale immigration, growth in democracy, a secularizing society and a plurality of religious groups. No longer is there one big church that claims to speak for everyone."

The full article is here:

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