The Helsinki Times reports…
“Over the past decade, nearly 400,000 Finns have renounced their membership from the Evangelical Lutheran Church through Eroakirkosta.fi, a website facilitating the secession process, costing the church nearly half a billion euro – 464 million to be exact – in tax revenue, the website estimates.
“Our objective is to no longer have a state church. This is the only way we can practically oppose the state church, which is uncommon in the European context,” says Petri Karisma, one of the founders of Eroakirkosta.fi and the chair of the Union of Freethinkers of Finland.
A director at the church’s central administration reached by Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday declined to comment on the estimate before considering it carefully.
The estimate was calculated separately for each municipality on the basis of income data provided by Statistics Finland and information about the gender and age of the people who have seceded from the church. In addition, the estimate takes into account the different church tax rates of Finnish municipalities.
On an average, the website gauges, a member of the church has been liable for 200 euro in church tax per year. In its statistics, the church contrastively estimates that the average annual church tax payment of its members is roughly 180 euro.
According to Karisma, the gap is attributable to the fact that Eroakirkosta.fi also takes into consideration the increase in Finns’ income and the consequent rise in their tax payments. The dent created by a resignation in 2003, for example, has therefore deepened by the year.
The website also predicts that Finns will continue to resign from the church in the coming years. As a result, the church will lose approximately 100 million euro in tax revenue in 2014 and will have lost a total of 1.5 billion euro by 2020.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church has revealed that of the total of 989 million euro it received in tax revenue in 2011, 856 million euro was accounted for by the church tax. The remaining 133 million euro, it adds, was contributed by the state from corporate tax revenue.
In 1980, 90 per cent of Finns were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. By the end of 2012, the share had slipped to 76.4 per cent.
Elsewhere, Eroakirkosta.fi reminds that according to the Council of Europe the separation of church and state is in the interest of Europe as a whole. Finland should therefore move toward secularity, due to the private nature of religion and convictions.
“Those who care for the church should support it. The state should not collect the church tax. Less than ten per cent of the funds received by the church is used for social work, while the majority is used to maintain churches,” Karisma says.
The website of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland indicates that two thirds of its operational costs in 2012 were personnel costs.”