Saying a lack of tithing is impacting church projects, Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga wants the Ugandan government to deduct 10 percent from citizens’ salary each month and give it to the Catholic Church.
“Whenever we ask for tithe, everyone gives only what they have at that time,” Lwanga said during mass on Sunday. “But the Bible says a tenth of whatever you earn belongs to the church.”
The archbishop asked church members to support his proposal “because it is good for us.” He asked worshipers, “Aren’t you tired of putting money in the baskets all the time?”
Should the Government Enforce Tithing for Church Members?
Lwanga suggests that Uganda follow Germany’s example of collecting a church tax. “I was told Germans make agreements with their government to deduct monthly tithe from their salaries and forward it to the church, and this money they use to build and renovate their churches,” he said.
Based on social media response, the idea isn’t popular. Kenyans, who are quite active on Twitter, were especially outspoken. “Big joke,” tweets guantai about Lwanga’s proposal. “Let him not spoil our good Old Catholic church. They don’t even announce tithes in my home catholic church. We do it secretly and anonymously.” Another person, LinahOkwaba, tweets, “This bishop really needs Jesus!”
How the Church Tax Works in Germany
Although Germany is one of Europe’s most secular nations, its churches hold lots of financial clout—with the government’s support. Anyone who was once baptized into a particular faith pays eight or nine percent of their annual income to that church through automatic payroll deductions.
Germany’s church tax, known as the Kirchensteuer system, was established in the 19th century and is based on pre-Christian custom. To avoid the tax, people must officially renounce their membership and pay a filing fee. Without paperwork showing you’ve left a church (or never belonged in the first place), you’re still considered a member and are liable for current and back taxes.
After Germans officially leave a church, they’re no longer able to receive the sacrament or participate in church activities such as confession and confirmation.
The mandatory tax—and the bureaucracy surrounding it—have caused many Germans to abandon both the Catholic and Protestant churches. Between 2001 and 2016, church membership in the country dropped 14 percent, yet during that same period, church tax income rose 35 percent.
Carsten Frerk, a church-tax expert who himself got ensnared in a prolonged tax battle, says three factors contribute to the increased revenue collections: high employment rates, a thriving middle class, and the tax office’s pursuit of new residents to add to its rolls.
Germany’s church and government have an “intimate” relationship, Frerk says. As a fee for collecting the church tax, the tax agency keeps about three percent of it. Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has repeatedly ruled that including someone’s religious status on a tax form is not unconstitutional.
Interestingly, the church tax offices aren’t official government agencies. Although employees work in government buildings and obtain government information, they actually work for the church.