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German Canon Law & Law on Religions

Rights of religious and ideological communities in Germany

German Canon Law: Attorneys advise

In Germany, religious and ideological communities are placed under the special fundamental rights protection of Article 4 of the German constitution. Not only the Christian churches but also communities of the world's great religions and smaller religious communities have developed under this protective umbrella. This great variety ensures that, in Germany, everyone can find his or her spiritual home. 

German government rewards religious activities by granting charity status

The German government not only protects churches and other religious communities by granting freedom of religion. In fact, government legislation provides for numerous special provisions and benefits for religious and ideological communities. The best known and most important among these is the granting of charity status.

Basically, a charitable organization can operate without being liable to pay tax on earnings. In addition it is allowed to issue donation receipts. Members and sponsors can hence profit from tax-deductibility of donations and membership fees.

The church as a corporation under public law

The possibility of obtaining charity status is, in principle, open to any religious corporation. In most cases these are

  • registered associations,
  • foundations, and
  • German charitable limited liability companies (gGmbH)  

In addition, any religious or ideological community has the unique option to obtain the status of a corporation under public law (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts). In such case, they have the same legal status as the well-known great Christian churches in Germany.

Such corporation has far-reaching possibilities. It may, for example, levy its own tax through the Fiscal Office subject to the German church tax law. In addition, thanks to its own legislative powers, it may issue regulations on church membership, create its own official posts and salaries paid and provide for the social security within the scope of its own church servant law.

German church status provides numerous advantages

Apart from the charitable status, even other legal areas provide numerous special regulations for religious communities mostly independently of their legal form. For example, the Works Constitution Act and the laws on employee co-determination and workers' representation do not apply.

Within the scope of the church labor law, religious communities in Germany are, in fact, entitled to issue their own law on employee representation. In addition, religious communities may generally claim their own feasts (holidays) subject to the law governing work on public holidays. In such cases, schools and employers normally have to release the members for attending worship services.

In addition, religious communities may have their members hold religion classes, provided they have a qualification as a teacher. In this way they can influence the cultural and political education of pupils and students.

German canon law is fragmented and complex

In Germany, laws applying to religions and/or church are not compiled in one code. In fact, there exist numerous special provisions in as many individual laws.

No matter whether you wish to found a new religious community or whether it has existed for years: Our experts in the law on religions and church can advise you comprehensively ensuring that your community can maximize its benefits from statutory advantages.

Your German canon law attorneys

German Canon Law and Law on Religions

Your contact on all aspects of the church law and the law on religions are Attorney Johannes Fein (certified tax law specialist) and Attorney Benjamin Kirschbaum. The easiest way to reach us is by e-mail (info@winheller.com) or phone (+49 69/76 75 77 80). Please do not hesitate to contact us!

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