Austrian referendum seeks to end church privileges

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A referendum is being held in Austria aimed at ending the 1933 concordat that regulates church-state relations.


The Tablet reports that the three main demands of the "Referendum Against Church Privileges" are "abolition of church privileges, clear separation of Church and State and terminating the gigantic state subsidies to the Church".

The initiators explain: "Everyone has the right to believe in whatever they want, but religion and personal belief should be a private matter and not supported by the state".

Written By: National Secular Society
continue to source article at secularism.org.uk

25 COMMENTS

  1. “Everyone has the right to believe in whatever they want, but religion and personal belief should be a private matter and not supported by the state”.

    Absolutely!

    I have no idea if the referendum will back or deny the point, but the mere fact it is asked is a huge and liberating step towards rationality.

    Can anyone imagine such a question being raised in any European country a decade ago for instance?

    I hope other authorities that be take long and careful note of the fact that such a question CAN be asked and that ecclesiastical jiggery pokery is not inviolable or unapproachable.

    It truly means that religion is losing the war whatever the outcome of this particular battle.

    And that really is something that few expected to see in our children’s lifetimes let alone in ours!

    • In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

      It sounds like Australians should spend their money on something more useful!
      It’s good to have a vote provided it is not wasted by sheeple voters!

      Oops, Alan! Austrian, not Australian- the flag is a clue. Wish Oz would do likewise but not yet, in spite of having (the world’s only?) atheist P.M.

      • In reply to #5 by Nodhimmi:

        In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

        It sounds like Australians should spend their money on something more useful!
        It’s good to have a vote provided it is not wasted by sheeple voters!

        Oops, Alan! Austrian, not Australian- the flag is a clue. Wish Oz would do likewise but not yet, in spite of having (the world’s only?) atheist P.M.

        I think I recall reading that one of the Scandinavian countries( probably Denmark) had an atheist P.M. Either that, or the fact that it was completely irrelevant in Danish politics.
        I too was stunned at first glance, thinking it was a possibility in Australia.

    • It’s not Australians, it’s Austrians.

      In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

      It sounds like Australians should spend their money on something more useful!
      It’s good to have a vote provided it is not wasted by sheeple voters!

    • Not Australians- AUSTRIANS ;-) jcw
      EDIT: I see a bunch of other contributors have beaten me to this…

      In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

      It sounds like Australians should spend their money on something more useful!
      It’s good to have a vote provided it is not wasted by sheeple voters!

      • In reply to #8 by kaiserkriss:

        Not Australians- AUSTRIANS ;-) jcw
        EDIT: I see a bunch of other contributors have beaten me to this…

        In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

        It sounds like Australians should spend their money on something more useful!
        It’s good to have a vote provided it is not wasted by sheeple voters!

        Sorry my mistake misreading the heading. ( I’m getting the new spectacles next week)

        Austria was full of Catholic shrines and mountain summits with crosses, when I was there some years ago.

        • Which is why it is so much more remarkable.
          Good luck with the specs Allan ;-) jcw

          In reply to #14 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #8 by kaiserkriss:

          Not Australians- AUSTRIANS ;-) jcw
          EDIT: I see a bunch of other contributors have beaten me to this…

          In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

          It sounds like Australians should spend their money on something more useful!
          It’s good to have a vote provided it is not wasted by sheeple voters!

          Sorry my mistake misreading the heading. ( I’m getting the new spectacles next week)

          Austria was full of Catholic shrines and mountain summits with crosses, when I was there some years ago.

    • In reply to #4 by Nodhimmi:

      “Everyone has the right to believe in whatever they want”

      Don’t agree- nobody has the ‘right’ to believe in the extremes of human perversion, do they?

      They have the right to believe in them. They don’t have the right to practice them.

      • However it is true that in Austria “Gruss Gott” is a standard greeting whereas Australians go for the more secular sounding “G’day”.
        In reply to #13 by BenS:

        In reply to #4 by Nodhimmi:

        “Everyone has the right to believe in whatever they want”

        Don’t agree- nobody has the ‘right’ to believe in the extremes of human perversion, do they?

        They have the right to believe in them. They don’t have the right to practice them.

  2. Important to mention that this 1933 concordat is the result of the solidarity of Hitler and the catholic church which also lasts until today in Germany and gives the churches unique privileges (e.g. Church taxes are collected by the state). Symptomatically nobody in Germany is reporting about this referendum. This Nazi legacy is long overdue, but the Christian government will not touch it. (n.b. it is not Australia)

    • In reply to #7 by afrobright:

      Important to mention that this 1933 concordat is the result of the solidarity of Hitler and the catholic church which also lasts until today in Germany and gives the churches unique privileges (e.g. Church taxes are collected by the state). Symptomatically nobody in Germany is reporting about this referendum. This Nazi legacy is long overdue, but the Christian government will not touch it. (n.b. it is not Australia)

      Excellent points you make; the RCC also cocked a deafen with regard to Benito Mussolini’s persecution of the Jews, hence his gift of the See of Rome in gratitude.

      S G

  3. “… the right to religious freedom, which is a fundamental human right, gives religions the right to articulate themselves in public”. – Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna

    Fine, go articulate yourself but get off the dole and pay your own bills.

  4. I’m glad that the RCC feels it necessary to “gear up” to resist the referendum, perhaps they have at long last realized that they can no longer take their privileges for granted.

    They can’t execute people any more either, that department’s been taken over by that other primitive, backward facing faction the Islamofascists.

  5. Some of the alpine states seem to use referenda effectively.

    Just next to Austria, – The Swiss held a referendum on euthanasia when the religinuts kicked up a fuss!

    In May 2011, a referendum was held over whether assisted suicide should be banned, and a separate question asked whether overseas individuals should be prevented from access to assisted suicide services.

    Eighty four percent of voters opposed any ban on access to assisted suicide, while seventy eight percent were opposed to banning overseas individuals access to such services. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia-in-Switzerland

  6. I wish it could happen in Britain.

    Sadly I can’t see it happening any time soon.

    The Church of England has conceived a brilliant survival strategy: being completely passive and unthreatening. No one will vote to abolish doormats because no one will ever work up the energy to bother.

  7. Rights and duty are mostly reciprocal. If people have a right to believe something without evidence what is my corresponding duty? Surely, it can’t be to buttress such nonsense. Nor is my duty to leave them to believe in nonsense that is prejudicial to everyone wellbeing including their own. There is therefore no right to believe or have an opinion without evidence it might be a privilege and one that we now need to withdraw given what we know today. To think, believe or have an opinion that something might be the case is not the same as knowing. Ideas must be subject to scrutiny and criticism to bring us closer to the truth.

  8. What we need to ask ourselves is what happened in 1933 to cause the unanimous agreement that church and state should be together.

    Second, what happened to either the way the church is run, or the way the state is run to cause a seperation now.

    Theories are that the state thought the church was great in 1933, and that it brought great moral guidance where it was needed in return for subsidies. So has the church not become serious about morals anymore, or has the state decided that perhaps morals don’t make money?

    • In reply to #22 by SGde3a:

      Hi SGde3a.

      I was interested in your question:

      What we need to ask ourselves is what happened in 1933 to cause the unanimous agreement that church and state should be together.

      According to Christopher Hitchens, it’s appropriate to think of the fascist movements that swept across Europe after the First World War as a political wing of the Catholic Church. The histories of Germany, Spain and Italy would certainly seem to bear that out and, on that basis, the State sponsorship of the church in Austria appears to confirm a pattern.

      Second, what happened to either the way the church is run, or the way the state is run to cause a separation now [?]

      I’m not much of a one for history, but it seems to me that you have touched on the history of geopolitics.

      As the dust of the Second World War settled, people in the ‘West’ were particularly keen on peace. By 1945 most of the World had been severely strained by the World Wars which followed a long history of re-drawing the map of the World, and Europe in particular.

      For obvious reasons any politician that appeared radical was therefore shunned by the electorate and largely by ruling oligarchies. The United Nations was formed and democracy was embraced like never before. As the peace lengthened, so governments were able to consider assigning resources away from military spending – the Cold War stand-off aside. In the 1960s spending on education, probably for the first time in history, outstripped spending on armaments.

      In addition education in all ‘Western’ countries, and many others besides, now included a thorough grounding in science – ensuring the spread of critical thinking, albeit at a low level of competence.

      As the social benefits of peace were further strengthened in Europe by the formation of the European Union, and education continued to turn out citizens able to think for themselves, church and temple attendance have dropped dramatically. As we have become increasingly less connected to religion, we have become more wary of the churches’ claims to a special status.

      Theories are that the state thought the church was great in 1933

      That seems to be true – for the reason that religious involvement in politics was rooted in the history of geopolitics. The presence of priests in the corridors of power was not questioned until the Napoleonic period, and even then the Catholic Church in particular continued to be wooed and referred to as they were one of the few truly international organisations.

      … and that [the Church] brought great moral guidance where it was needed in return for subsidies.

      I am not convinced by that argument. You will find no shortage of records showing politicians saying that this bishop, or that pontiff, was included in some discussion or other in order to gain a ‘special’ moral insight. But it seems clear to me that this is mere window dressing. The Catholic Church was leveraging its influence, and feathering its own nest, and morality – if the results are any guide – was a rare coincidental.

      So has the church not become serious about morals any more [?]

      Such a question assumes that churches were, at some point in history, moral. I see very little evidence for that.

      … has the state decided that perhaps morals don’t make money?

      Politicians – including priesthoods – are as capable as the rest of us of setting aside moral principles to enrich themselves. Thus it ever was and always will be.

      Peace.

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