State politicians want to cut the millions in subsidies to the churches
The Catholic and Protestant churches receive almost €460 million in subsidies from the German states ― too much, say leading state politicians and in Der Spiegel they are demanding a cut. They are receiving support from Carsten Schneider, the chief budget expert of the [opposition] SPD group in the Bundestag [federal parliament].
Translation of “Landespolitiker wollen Kirchen Millionenzuschüsse kürzen”, Der Spiegel, 24 July 2010
Hamburg/Berlin ― The pressure to reduce spending is putting even old traditions in question: in several German states it's being considered whether to take up negotiations with the Protestant and Catholic churches over a cut in the millions of Euros in subsidies. “We must make savings everywhere, also with the churches”, demands Wolfgang Kubicki, the leader of the Schleswig-Holstein FDP parliamentary group [in the governing coalition] in Der Spiegel.
Like almost all the  German states Schleswig-Holstein must pay annual allocations to the churches. From these come for example the salaries of bishops, priests and vicars. Totally independent of the “church tax” ― and from tax money. From Bavaria alone in 2009 this brought €65 million from the Bavarian Government for the Catholic Church and an additional €21 million for the Protestant colleagues. The state of Baden-Württemberg was also showed generosity to the clerics: in 2009 this state paid €49 million each to the Catholic and Protestant churches. In the Protestant north the donations were somewhat smaller, but still impressive: in 2009 the Protestant Church received €30 million, the Catholics, €7.6 million.
Now consideration is being given to reduce these payments. Kubiki told Der Spiegel that the [Schleswig-Holstein] state government wants to reduce the contractually-fixed payments by 10 to 15 percent. Talks are to begin with the churches after the summer holidays.
In this year alone the budgets of the states will allocate €459 million to church subsidies. Among other things the annual allocations are intended as compensation for church lands expropriated at the beginning of the 19th century.
In Lower Saxony, as well, the Liberals [Free Democrats, the minor coalition partner] want to slash the subsidies of about €39 million. “We're going to put this topic on the agenda of the spending reduction commision”, said head of the FDP parliamentary group, Christian Dürr.
In the Saar the head of the Greens, Hubert Ulrich, also demanded a change: “At a time when the brakes are being applied to deficits, these payments must also be examined.” Also the Left Party in the state of Brandenburg are thinking of reductions: “Contracts can be changed”, said Stefan Ludwig.
Support at the federal level
The state politicians are also receiving support the federal level. Financial privileges for the churches are “inapproproiate and no longer suit the times”, said the finance speaker of the SPD [Social Democrats'] Bundestag group, Carsten Schneider.
The Social Democrat from Thuringia and his party colleagues has founded a working group of secularists in the SPD.