November 8, 1996

page 10

A proposal to institute a "church tax" in Poland similar to that of Germany has been criticized by Polish [Roman] Catholic leaders. Observers say the measure could cause a sharp drop in the numbers of declared [Roman] Catholics from the current 95 percent to the 35 percent who attend Mass regularly because many people would refuse to register as [Roman Catholic] church members rather than pay the church tax

Parliamentarian Ryszard Zajac's proposal is based on the system of church tax in Germany where the two main Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations each receive church tax funds from the government. Under the proposal, registered church members would pay an additional tax, based on their income levels, which would be collected by the government and then given to the churches.

A spokesman for Poland's 90,000 member Lutheran church said the proposal would "clearly hit the [Roman] Catholic church worst, by requiring it to count its members. If declaring one's [Roman] Catholic loyalty had financial consequeces, we could expect a sudden drop in church statistics."