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Ooooh this is choice: No pay, no go. To heaven, that is.

In Belgium, Germany, Greece and Norway, churches are financed by the state. Income from church taxes in Germany (8-9% of the annual income tax) amounted to about $6.3 billion for the Roman Catholic Church in 2011, and $5.5 billion for the Protestant, mostly Lutheran, churches in 2010. Roughly a third of Germany's 82 million people are Roman Catholics.

Last week one of Germany’s highest courts rankled Catholic bishops by ruling that the state recognized the right of Catholics to leave the church — and therefore avoid paying the tax.

The German church tax is so steep that about three million Catholics formally quit the church in the past two decades to avoid paying, while nevertheless remaining active in their faith. That is what is angering Catholic Church officials.

In response the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Germany issued a crystal clear, uncompromising edict, endorsed by the Vatican. It detailed that a member who refuses to pay taxes will no longer be allowed to receive communion or make confession, to serve as godparents or to hold any office in the church. Those who leave can also be refused a Christian burial.

Norbert Lüdecke, a professor of canon law at Bonn University, said “Now refusing to pay taxes is considered an offense only slightly less bad than denial that Jesus Christ is the son of God,” Mr. Lüdecke said. “While at the same time, there is no specific punishment for other offenses, such as, for example, the sexual abuse of minors by clerics.”
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