The relationship between the Greek state and the Orthodox Church on Monday became the focus of a fresh clash between the government and the main opposition SYRIZA party after a leftist MP proposed the introduction of a new tax to pay clerics’ wages.
SYRIZA deputy Tasos Kourakis said the Church should start funding itself instead of relying on dwindling state coffers. Another option would be to impose a church tax on all Greeks who declare themselves to be Christian Orthodox, Kourakis told a conference organized by the Theology Department of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University. Revenues could go toward church costs and clerics’ salaries, he said.
The idea was shot down by conservative New Democracy, which likened the proposed tax to “Stalinist measures.” ND argued that such a levy would be unconstitutional as it would discriminate between Greeks based on their religious beliefs.
SYRIZA noted that Kourakis’s proposal was the MP’s “personal opinion” but said a similar initiative had been mooted by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras in the fall of 2011 when the latter was head of the Foundation for Industrial and Economic Research (IOBE).
Stournaras accused SYRIZA of distorting comments he made during a TV interview, when he noted that other European citizens do not pay clerics’ salaries without proposing however that Greece follow suit.