Benjamin Bull
There is a movement underway in Europe to remove the tax exemptions churches have enjoyed for centuries.

In Spain and Italy this attempt is being broadly pursued, while in Britain it is being done piecemeal.

For example, in Spain and Italy the special tax status of churches and their ministries are being openly targeted by political leaders who want to get their hands into church coffers.

Ricardo Rubio, a city councilman in Alcala de Henares, Spain, says he, and those who share his view, “want to make a statement that the costs of the [financial] crisis should be borne equally by every person and institution.” In other words, it’s time for the religious to pay their fair share.

And in Italy, Prime Minister Mario Monti is calling “for a tax on church properties or on those portions of properties that have a commercial purpose.”

But there have already been conflicting explanations for the proposed taxation indicating that “about 100,000 properties, classed as non-commercial,” would be taxed as well. These properties include “8,779 schools, 26,300 ecclesiastical structures and 4,714 hospitals and clinics.”

In other words, even before the tax-emption has been fully lifted the government is already overreaching.

Rubio and Monti are only two of many officials in cash-strapped European nations and cities who are beginning to view the Catholic Church as their ticket to solvency. Both Spain and Italy are reeling under the same financial duress that has been weighing down other European nations for some time, and these political leaders see no reason why churches shouldn’t share the burden.

Apparently Rubio and Monti have failed to consider that this not only violates the left’s heretofore inviolable separation of church and state, but actually makes the church one of the state’s purse holders.

Britain has been tiptoeing toward this same end for some time. Their approach, to date, has been to reduce expenditures by cutting funding that had previously been designated for transportation to faith-based schools.

All three of these countries are making a terrible, heart-wrenching mistake by putting the financial needs of bureaucrats above the spiritual needs of their people. For whether they realize it or not, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

The tax-exempt status has been in place for centuries because matters of faith have been held above and beyond secular matters for that same period of time. The push to change the tax structure, and the tradition that goes with it, stands as a sad testimony to the fact that many countries are ready to trade to their spiritual heritage for an opportunity to balance their national checkbooks.

Benjamin Bull

Benjamin Bull is an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom.