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The German principle of “church autonomy”

German law opts for “church autonomy”, rather than “separation of church and state”. According to the Constitutional Court this lets the churches run huge enterprises (at public expense) where state employment laws do not apply, and the churches are free to make their own. This can mean that these employees can legally be fired if their personal lives don't conform to church rules.

German taxpayers subsidise over 90% of faith-based social services

Dr. Carsten Frerk, an authority on church finances, reveals for the first time in English that social service employees of German religious organisations number 2.5 million and that the German churches pay for less than 10% of their “good works”, with the taxpayer left to foot the rest of the bill. 
  Church-run home for the aged goes to court for an inheritance 
 How Caritas and the Diakonisches Werk began

The church charity myth

The churches only subsidise a third of what the public believes is their own charity. This is undemocratic and dishonest, says Dr. Carsten Frerk. In addition, his research reveals the questionable legality of the huge “state benefits” which are paid by all the taxpayers, not for any good works, but simply for clerics’ salaries, foreign missions and the like. A political storm is now brewing.

Millions for the bishops: Why the German state pays the wages for the church (2010)

How did Germany become the cash cow of the Vatican? An English transcript of the lively Spiegel video from 7 June 2010 reveals this unknown story. A few weeks after it came out, German politicians broke a taboo and began to publicly question their 200-year-old tradition of taxing everyone for the salaries of clerics at a cost of about €480 milllion in 2014. (This is in addition to, and roughly equal to the “church tax” for members.)

How far can German churches discriminate against over a million employees? (2014)

In 2014 the German Supreme Court confirmed the right of the Catholic Church to police the private lives of more than a million workers in Church-run institutions subsidised by the state. The German churches got themselves exempted from the 2006 antidiscrimination law and now shelter under a constitutional provision meant to allow the churches to regulate their internal affairs.

Europe tells German churches to respect employees’ private lives

In September 2010 the European Court of Human Rights handed down a landmark judgment telling German courts to no longer uncritically accept almost any assertion by the churches that an employees’s private life would damage their credibility. They must take into account many factors other than the church’s “right to self-determination”. Schüth v. Germany (ECHR no. 1620/03)

Money for silence

Former Bishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, didn’t tell the police about a priest in his diocese who abused children, but sued the journalist, Stefan Aigner, for calling the secret payments to victims “hush money”. The Bishop got a court to order the deletion of a summary of his actions from a Spiegel article. Here is a translation of a full account of this case which escaped the ban.

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