Liechtenstein parishes may lose subsidies

June 29, 2011

Churches in Liechtenstein, one of the world's smallest countries,
could face financial disaster with government plans to withdraw state
subsidies under new legislation, according to a Protestant leader.

"This
will be a drastic change—we depend on financial support, and there'll
be no chance of obtaining it if the new law goes ahead," said Markus
Meidert, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liechtenstein.

"This
is a predominantly Catholic country, and the Catholic Church is unhappy
with the plans as well. But the new law will be especially hard and
treacherous for smaller churches like ours, [which] have none of the
Catholic Church's resources."

A bill before Liechtenstein's
25-member parliament proposes to end the Catholic Church's status as
official state church and also withdraw state subsidies from recognized
religious communities.

Meidert said in an interview that state
grants account for half the current budget of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church, which has no means of generating income like Christian churches
in neighboring Germany and Austria.

The Catholic Church accounts
for 78 percent of the 36,000 inhabitants of Liechtenstein, situated
between Aus­tria and Switzerland, and receives 300,000 Swiss francs
yearly from the state budget, as well as additional funds from the
country's 11 municipalities.

Under the government-sponsored reform
package, the Catholic Church would lose its state-church status with
"full protection from the state" as laid out in Liechtenstein's 2003
constitution. The church's guaranteed role in education and religious
teaching in schools would also end, and the state would fund only those
programs and services that benefit the collective good.  —RNS/ENInews