Fee for leaving church is brought before European Court of Human Rights

Press release of December 2, 2008

The International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (German: Internationaler Bund der Konfessionslosen und Atheisten, IBKA) is supporting a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights against the fee for leaving a church in North-Rhine Westphalia. "We are sticking to our opinion that a fee for leaving a church infringes the freedom of religion and conscience," IBKA chairman Rudolf Ladwig said. The association of non-religious had already supported the previous proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court but the constitutional complaint was dismissed.

The Federal Constitutional Court admitted in its ruling that the fee for leaving a church restricts the freedom of religion but stated that the fee is nevertheless justified with the collection of church tax. The complainant Fabrice Witzke from Cologne and the IBKA do not find this justification convincing. According to their opinion, the fundamental right to religious freedom must take precedence over the collection of church tax. Fabrice Witzke explains: "Freedom of religions also signifies for me that one is allowed to be free from religion, without being harassed or having to pay for that purpose."

The number 54773/08 has been assigned to the complaint by the law court.