ND and SYRIZA in dispute over proposal for tax for church expenses

New Democracy and SYRIZA have clashed after a leftist MP proposed the introduction of a new tax to pay clerics’ wages.

Speaking at a conference organized by the theology department at Aristotle University, SYRIZA lawmaker Tasos Kourakis spoke in favor of a separation of the Church of Greece and the state with the church funding itself rather than via state coffers.

Kourakis added that another option would be to impose a church tax on all Greeks who declare themselves to be Christian Orthodox. The MP said the revenues raised could be used to cover church costs and clerics’ salaries. Similar taxes apply in other European countries, including Germany.

However, New Democracy issued a statement condemning Kourakis and SYRIZA, likening the proposal to “Stalinist measures” and arguing that it would be unconstitutional as it would discriminate between Greeks based on their religious beliefs.

Kourakis responded by pointing out that Greeks already pay for clerics wages through their taxes.

Since the economic crisis broke out in Greece, the subject of how the Church of Greece is funded has surfaced in the public debate quite regularly.

The church argues that it pays considerable amounts in property taxes and has passed large tracts of land to the state in return for its public funding.