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Religious Europeans keep going to church, in spite of tax, survey says

Catherine Leblanc - Godong
Church tax.

In spite of a government tax, people are reluctant to give up their religious identity, Pew finds.

The church tax is a centuries-old European tradition. In many countries, the government taxes adherents of a particular religion in order to support their Church and its ministers.

In spite of news in recent years that people are leaving their Churches in order to no longer be liable for the church tax, the Pew Research Center says there does not appear to be a mass exodus.

“Growing numbers of people have been opting out of the tax by formally deregistering from their Churches, perhaps another sign of secularization in the region,” Pew says.

The survey, published April 30, found that between 8 percent and 20 percent say they have left their Church tax system. “In several countries, one-fifth or more of current payers describe themselves as either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ likely to opt out in the future,” says the survey, which was conducted in Western Europe in 2017.

Among those who say they pay the tax, large majorities describe themselves as “not too” or “not at all” likely to take official steps to avoid paying the tax in the future.

One reason why people are reluctant to leave, Pew explains, is that “formally leaving a Church and renouncing a part of one’s identity involves enough effort and symbolism that many people are deterred from taking that step, even if they are not religious.”


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