Video from the National War Tax Resistance Conference

Someone shot video at the recent NWTRCC national conference in Colorado Springs. Some of the highlights include:

Bill Durland recalls the founding and early history of NWTRCC

Ruth Benn compares the work of NWTRCC today with the goals of its founders.

From the Catholic Herald, :

Prize author refuses to pay Church tax

Following the announcement that German author Heinrich Boell had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano, said that the Catholic writer is not paying his Church dues.

Boell, the newspaper said, is “a leftist Catholic who by no means shies away from disturbing and painful controversies, such as for example the refusal to pay church tax.”

The 55-year-old Cologne author, who is the president of PEN International, the prestigious literary association, has been waging a three-year battle against what he calls the “finalisation of belief.” As in many other European countries, the German government here turns about 10 per cent of a taxpayer’s income tax over to his church. The only legal way to avoid this deduction is for a taxpayer to make an official declaration of leaving his church, thus cutting oneself off from the sacraments and church burial.

“I can’t leave the Church and I do not want to pay,” Boell told the authorities of his diocese. “Seize my property or throw me out of the Church.”

Boell sent the address of his publisher — who last year brought out the author’s bestseller “Group Picture With a Woman” — to the tax office, explaining: “There is nothing to seize in my home. Only books and my bed are there.”

Boell was quoted by the news magazine Der Spiegel as explaining that he is protesting the tax to show that in the Church there “exists a kind of pimp alternative: pay or get out. And I am showing the people that one can defend oneself against that.” When he started his anti-Church tax protest three years ago, Boell said he would not pay until the German supreme court decided on the constitutionality of the issue.

In , the court ruled against Boell on the grounds that he did not have to pay if he left the Church.

Up to now, the Church has given Boell an “unusual delay” in paying his Church tax. , however, the Cologne archdiocese turned the case over to the tax office, pointing out that the Church has nothing to do with seizing Boell’s property. Boell announced he is willing to pay a fine — “I can afford that little luxury” — though the tax office seems as slow to seize his property as the Church was to collect.

Böll finally did leave the church . The German Catholic Church tax is still a going concern, and was in the news again :

Catholic bishops place tax resisters under a ban

The German bishops have decided on penalties for leaving the church: those who pay no church tax are, in fact excommunicated. The shepherds respond with a cutting edge on a touchy subject.

The question is as old as Christianity itself Even the Apostles Peter and Paul have gotten entangled in the issue. And if the catechism is right, then this issue will again become quite important at the latest after death: who is actually in the church? Who is a member of the community of believers — and who has to stay outside?

This question is currently under German Catholics as controversial as it has ever been. For several years, some scholars represented the view that one could also be a Catholic without having to pay church tax. It should be possible, to withdraw from the church as a public corporation, thus avoiding the tax — and still continue to sense oneself to be a believer and to be a member of the church.

Salvation, they argue, depends not on a monthly payment, and a notice of resignation to the registrar’s office was a bureaucratic contact with the state, which had no consequences for life in the faith community of Christ.

A sensitive debate for the Catholic bishops, after all, as it touches on the self-understanding of each believer, and at the same time it represents the present system of church tax as a principle. After months of negotiations, they have therefore now passed a law that will put an end to the debate.

The “general decree” that the German bishops’ conference released on puts, now clearly states: Those who want to be Catholic must be either entirely Catholic or not at all. The church cannot be split into a worldly apparatus and a spiritual community of faith, both belong together.

Whoever comes out of the church can be no Catholic. They lose the rights of membership of the Church, until they return again.

To quote the two A4 pages long document that the Pope has personally approved and which came into force on : “The declaration of resignation from the church before the competent civil authority shall be considered as a public act of a deliberate and willful alienation from the church and is a grave offense against the Christian community.”

Whoever resigns acts contrary, “to the obligation to preserve association with the Church”, and “to the duty to make their financial contribution to the church which she needs to fulfill her tasks.”

Accordingly, Christians expect certain sanctions (“legal consequences”): Whoever does not pay church tax can no longer receive communion, be confirmed or go to confession. They can no longer be God-parents nor belong to any public church group.

For a church wedding, they can get a special permit under the condition that they promise “the preservation of the faith and the Catholic education of the children”. Finally, it says: “If the person who has left the church does not show any sign of remorse at death, the church funeral can be denied.” In summary, the consequences of resignation from the church are like excommunication.

The decree of the bishops is a special rule which applies only in Germany. The German church tax system is in fact an exception, as in most other countries, the Catholic Church regulates the contributions of its members differently. The German church tax was introduced in , as compensation for the nationalisation of church property (secularization).

With their decision, the bishops are trying to get out of the defensive position in which they found themselves in, thanks to a theologian: The Freiburg Professor Hartmut Zapp wanted to set a precedent in .

Zapp resigned from the church, but declared that he still continued to feel that he was a member of the Catholic Church. He could appeal to certain Vatican legal texts that make leaving the church not dependent on government agencies, but solely on the interior attitude of the believer.

In addition, Rome has always took the position that no matter what a believer declares to any German registry office — as long as they say nothing about resignation from the church, they are treated as a member. From a purely theological viewpoint, leaving the church is not possible in any case. Those who have been baptised belong irrevocably to the Catholic community.

The subject puts the Bishops’ Conference into a quandary. They must fight against resignations from the church, but no matter what it does, they will inevitably be suspected of being only tough about their tax revenue. Simultaneously critics accuse the bishops of ignoring the will of the Vatican. Accordingly the negotiating position of the German bishops was difficult, who on this issue wanted to matters absolutely clear.

The paper now presented represents a compromise with Rome. The German bishops have prevailed with their desire that participation in Catholic life is virtually impossible after a resignation. But they symbolically have not used the word “excommunication” — even though the “legal consequences” decided on for resignation mean virtually the same thing.

Catholics, who want to save on taxes, but still want to keep up organ music at the wedding or incense at the funeral will be faced with a clear choice. They must reckon for themselves and decide if they really wish to and can do without church life completely. “Let your yes be a ‘yes’, and your no be a ‘no’ ” as it says in the Bible.

Yet the bishops should be aware that they are taking a high risk. The risk of being considered cruel and relentless, as happy with penalties and greedy for money. So they unintentionally increase the risk that some undecided or those who have already resigned will make the final break. And the centuries-old debate about who actually belongs to the church and who does not answer their individual manner: I do not belong.

There is some more information on the controversy at this link.