Membership in state churches in Europe, often involving paying a church tax, is sometimes portrayed as a static condition that one escapes only in death.
But the practice of opting out of membership and church taxes is not only becoming easier, but more people are exercising a degree of choice on the matter. The Helsinki-based newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (Oct. 14) reports that a “record number” of Finns resigned from the Evangelical Lutheran Church over a two-day period after a gay rights panel discussion on TV featuring a church bishop was aired.
During and after the show, called Gay Night, which dealt with gay rights issues, including the rights of same-sex couples to marry in church, up to 2,633 people resigned from the church. The resignations were made on a website designed for this purpose. About 90 percent of all resignations from the church now happen through the Internet. Meanwhile, Italians are not dropping out from paying church tax as much as redirecting their donations.
The Tablet (Aug. 28) reports that a growing number of Catholics dissatisfied with their leaders in Italy are rewarding the Waldensian Church with their church tax money. The Waldensians, an Italian Protestant group with roots in the Middle Ages, showed a record 14.8 percent increase in people paying their church taxes to them, while the numbers of people designating sending their tax donations to the Catholic Church dropped for the second year running.