To Americans who drop coins into the collection plate, write a check or perhaps text in their Sunday donation, the idea that the state would charge an annual tax to support their church can seem strange and off-putting indeed.
But in several Western European countries, a majority of adults not only agree to pay a church tax imposed on all baptized Christians, but also have no intention of opting out of it, even though they can, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center published on Tuesday (April 30).
That includes many who don’t attend church regularly but who still pay the tax.
From the outside, Western Europe is often seen as a highly secularized region where established religion is dying out. Church taxes are blamed for part of that erosion, because the only way to avoid the tax where it is mandatory is to officially leave the church one was baptized in.
But the Pew report, titled “In Western European Countries With Church Taxes, Support for the Tradition Remains Strong,” found far more people still finance their church than attend it.
Of the 15 countries it studied, Pew found six have mandatory taxes — Austria, Denmark, Fin-land, Germany, Sweden and Swi-tzerland — while Italy, Portugal and Spain have voluntary pro-grams and no church taxes are collected at all in Belgium, Britain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway.