How Italy’s “8 per mille” religious tax works

I don’t have much time right now to write a lengthy post on the “8 per mille” (that’s “8 per thousand”) religious tax. It’s an obligatory tax, and the taxpayer must choose which religious confession gets the money. If the taxpayer is a Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu he or she is out of luck. Their religions aren’t able to participate. In that case the taxpayer might simply not choose, or choose “State”, in which case the money almost certainly goes directly to the Catholic Church. 

The UAAR has done an excellent job of informing the public on how this all works. Around 60% of Italians don’t choose, perhaps because they’re apathetic or have no idea what’s at stake. Only 37% or so actually choose the Catholic Church, yet the C.C. receives around 87% of the entire tax. Something’s clearly wrong with this picture.

If you understand Italian, this short video explains what’s going on (and how the C.C. spends the €1 billion or so they get as a freebie from the State each year.)

The “8 per mille” Wikipedia page exists in ItalianEnglish and Hebrew.

Fun with comments

Stanley Fish has a great Opinionator piece on the Lautsi vs. Italy ruling in the NYT. Read the whole thing; if I were so erudite, it’s what I’d have written in my post. Granted, mine was a sudden burst of WTF!? Fish nails it. (h/t goes to Stewart and Greg simultaneously!)

The comments are great, too. Here are some that stood out for me:

“While living in Italy a few years ago I felt sufficated by the constant displays of crucifixes — in my daughter’s day care center (Italy has excellent public pre-schools), post offices, city hall, etc. That, plus displays of the madonna, etc. in the same public places. I don’t know if this is the same case referred to by Mr. Fish, but I was rooting for the parents of a Muslim child who had brought suit that the presence of a crucifix at school discriminated against their child. The standard response — that the crucifix is a cultural symbol — makes sense to no one but Catholic Italians.” (mmsch)

“Italy is a Christian country. The cross is a symbol of Christianity. Why is it that you don’t complain or mention that in Islamic countries they have Muslim symbols in their schools and that in Israel they have Jewish symbols in their schools? Why is it that the Christians have to be tolerant of everyone else but you give a pass to the above mentioned religions? Do you think for one minute the Muslims or Jews would worry about offending Christians in their countries? I doubt it. How about an article on how tolerant the people of Saudi Arabia are and how they let non Muslims practice their religion in that country? And how Islam is so welcoming and tolerates non Muslims in their countries. Ask the Coptic Christians in Egypt about how they are allowed to display their faith at all without getting killed by Muslims. I missed your article on that one. Let’s just show how intolerant the Christians are and give others a pass on their prejudices. Yea let’s do that!” (vonvondavont)

“Given all that is going on in the world, this wasn’t worth reading. Of all the things to write about.” (Vern Edwards)

“How about this. The cross has been displayed there for years. You should be looking at the cross and thinking of that- thinking of what that means. If you don’t like it, leave. And that’s from someone who hasn’t been to church services in 20 years.” (MacBones)

“However flawed the court’s reasoning is about the crucifix, Italian parents have the right to have their children educated in the presence of Christianity’s greatest symbol. If the Vatican was headquartered on Long Island I would probably disagree with the court’s ruling. You’re analysis is superb, Dr. Fish! And the fish is also a great symbol of the Christian faith. I always knew you were one of us!” (Martin Yanosek)

I can’t quite follow the logic of that last one. Does Mr. Yanosek agree with the judges or with Fish? And how is the crucifix “Christianity’s greatest symbol?” And why does he think “Italian parents” are all Catholics?

I have people like him in mind when I write this blog; I’d appreciate it if more people got the simple idea into their heads that Italy is not a Catholic country populated exclusively by Catholics. It’s more diverse than that, even if the Strasbourgians have just fed the rest us to the lions.

Robert Ingersoll on theocracy

Robert Ingersoll was one of the most eloquent voices for reason the English language has ever known. His words ring as true as ever today:

The government of God has been tried. It was tried in Palestine several thousand years ago, and the God of the Jews was a monster of cruelty and ignorance, and the people governed by this God lost their nationality. Theocracy was tried through the Middle Ages. God was the Governor — the pope was his agent, and every priest and bishop and cardinal was armed with credentials from the Most High — and the result was that the noblest and best were in prisons, the greatest and grandest perished at the stake. The result was that vices were crowned with honor, and virtues whipped naked through the streets. The result was that hypocrisy swayed the sceptre of authority, while honesty languished in the dungeons of the Inquisition. […]

If God is allowed in the Constitution, man must abdicate. There is no room for both. If the people of the great Republic become superstitious enough and ignorant enough to put God in the Constitution of the United States, the experiment of self-government will have failed, and the great and splendid declaration that “all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed” will have been denied, and in its place will be found this: All power comes from God; priests are his agents, the people are their slaves. […]

We have already compared the benefits of theology and science. When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few. To nearly all the children of men, reading and writing were unknown arts. The poor were clad in rags and skins — they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones. The day of Science dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of to-day. Men in the middle ranks of life have more of the conveniences and elegancies than the princes and kings of the theological times. But above and over all this, is the development of mind. There is more of value in the brain of an average man of to-day — of a master-mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago. […]

These blessings did not fall from the skies. These benefits did not drop from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars — neither were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in answer to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience – – and for them all, man is indebted to man.

Read the rest here.

The crucifix post-Strasbourg

Carla Corsetti, the Secretary of Democrazia Atea –  Italy’s only explicitly atheist political party – has penned a response to the Strasbourg ruling that religious symbols in public schools are not in violation of human rights. Corsetti is a lawyer who has herself appealed to the Administrative Regional Court (TAR) of Lazio over the presence of the crucifix in her son’s schoolroom. Here is that link, in English.

Winners and Losers by Carla Corsetti

Culture wars have neither winners nor losers; either everyone wins or everyone loses. The difference is measured by who is aware of this and who isn’t. And we are among those who understand the universal value of certain conquests. The European Court has told us that the crucifix is a passive symbol, inert, and it has told us that decorating public schools with it isn’t in violation of human rights.

This interpretation – which we do not share – won’t stop us. We don’t feel culturally defeated and, on closer inspection, the Catholics themselves are the losers. After this ruling no Catholic will be able to calmly assert that the crucifix is a symbol which “unites”, or that is it shared peacefully. After this ruling the crucifix is trapped between those who wish to impose it through abuse of power and those who refuse to submit to it. By now the crucifix is unequivocally, definitively and irreversibly the symbol of a bullying religious confession at the expense of those who are not its members.

Catholics were unable to defend the crucifix as one defends the most precious things, which are to be cherished with discretion and in private. At the cost of imposing it they’ve deprived it of its religious significance, presented it as a cultural symbol and accepted its secularization. They weren’t even upset when someone justified its ostension as part of the furnishing of a public classroom, along with the chairs and the wastebaskets. They were the first to desecrate it.

We will accept the cultural and legal challenge while continuing to call attention to the fact that this is a symbol of death, a symbol which has accompanied genocide and war, massacre and rape, dirty business and paedophilia. It doesn’t belong to us, not even culturally, and from today onwards we have yet another reason to remove it from our children’s sight.

And here is a revamped crucifix reflecting the new reality.

It's our symbol, too, right?



15 to 2, in favor of theocracy. I’m speechless, unnerved, irritated and perplexed.

“According to the judges, there is no proof the crucifix has any influence over the students in classrooms where it is present.”

Well Jesus-fucking-Christ that’s a bit presumptuous, ain’t it? And if that’s the case, why can’t we put other symbols up next to that of the Holy Inquisition?

It’s theocracy. What other word can there be for this?

And think, there’s not even any hell for these bastards to go to. At times I wish there was.

Judeo-Christian roots? There’s no such thing

The pope is naked. Judge Luigi Tosti has torn his dress off and thrown it to the wind. And along with it goes the masquerade of Europe’s “Judeo-Christian” roots.

I asked permission to place a menorah next to the crucifix as a reminder of pope Ratzinger’s words, which assert Europe’s “Judeo-Christian” roots. I did this because I know that Catholics are racist hypocrites and they’d never have allowed a Jewish symbol to be placed by the crucifix.

It’s a pity, really. A lot of people seem to like the idea that Europe’s once-Christian majority decided to share its cultural wealth with the Jews. Of course, that was after centuries of the most terrible persecutions and having denied them just about everything imaginable in the realm of rights. After Nazi Germany, Europe could no longer bury its head in the sand.

One problem is that Europe is no longer very Christian. And it hardly has any Jews left. So – from a Jewish perspective – it’s too little, too late.

Another problem is that if anything unites the European Union, it is certainly not adherence to biblical authority. That, after all, is what is implied by the term “Judeo-Christian roots.” It’s a trope, and a clever one; however, Jews and Christians disagree on the most fundamental things – those very things that keep Jews Jewish and Christians Christian.

What about the Greeks and the Romans? Didn’t they help to lay the foundations of what we now call European civilization? Christianity was late in the game, picked up the pieces of a broken empire, and proclaimed itself ruler over Jew and Gentile alike. The Gentiles were Christianized by the sword; the Jews, persecuted, massacred, coverted by torture and ghettoized by the same Christians that now wish to share their bounteous “roots” with them. Again, too little, too late.

We’re so used to hearing “Judeo-Christian roots” that it no longer even registers. Besides being an exercise in phony diplomacy, it’s exclusionary towards anyone neither Jewish nor Christian.

Another use of the term is as a weapon against that very secularism that binds Europe. It’s a favorite of Catholics, for instance, who wish to defend their theocratic ambitions in Italy. “Judeo-Christian” lets them sound ecumenical to the uninitiated. It lets them play peace-love-and-understanding. But it’s pure unadulterated bullshit.

Judge Tosti knew this when he asked permission to place a menorah next to the crucifix in his courtroom. He knew his request would be denied. He knew those smooth-talking Catholics were hypocrites who don’t put their money where there mouth is.

I submit that the only Europe worth living in is a secular Europe. The Enlightenment project is what allows Jew, Gentile and everyone else to live here together without a holy war in every city. It’s hard enough, but its the best way we’ve ever discovered.

Today the pope is naked. No amount of fancy dress will cover up that fact.

Judge Luigi Tosti discharged for refusing to serve beneath the crucifix

Yesterday the Italian judge Luigi Tosti was officially discharged for refusing to serve in a courtroom adorned with the crucifix. The crucifix is a mandatory presence in all Italian public offices, classrooms, courtrooms and police stations. If you are a non-Catholic, non-believer or believer with respect for separation of church and state, well…you’re out of luck.

Tosti “had repeadedly and in vain called for the removal of the crucifix from the courtrooms” – according to the UAAR’s website – “or, instead, that all other religious symbols, and in particular the Jewish menorah, be displayed as well.” We can now see what that reasonable request got him.

What sickens me is that the Italian government is incapable of abiding by its own secular constitution. What’s worse is when they attempt to throw the crucifix at us as if it were itself the very symbol of the secular nature of the state. It is incessantly referred to as neutral, silent, universal. A gathering place for Jew and Gentile, believer and non-believer. The most ecumenical goddamn thing you ever saw. How can you not just love it?

What is neutral about the Inquisition? What is silent about the Crusades? What is universal about any religious confession?

They like to use those words because they are abuzz with secular meaning. It’s a bit rich, though, coming from men like Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Joseph Ratzinger, and not unlike Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prattling on about “human rights” at the UN. But anyone can see that it’s a pack of lies; the crucifix is as divisive a symbol as ever humanity has devised.

But this isn’t about the sordid history of the crucifix as symbol of religious might and theocratic muscle; it’s about freedom from religion. It’s about the neutrality of the state in religious affairs.

This week Italy celebrates its 150th birthday; it was born in opposition to that very same august religious institution – the Catholic Church – that it kneels before today. Three days from now, on March 18, the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg will give its final decision as to whether the public display of the crucifix is unconstitutional. You can be sure that, no matter what, not a single crucifix will come down. If the Vatican is indeed a sinking ship, Italy has vowed to go down with it, crucifix in hand.

This is a mischievous pact. There is no religious equality here, no breathing room from state-sponsored Roman Catholicism. Not even a judge is safe from the maw of this weasel-theocracy, the kind without even the courage to call itself one. Given the choice between safeguarding the constitutional rights of its citizens and kowtowing to the gluttonous bishops, Italy consistently chooses the latter. What a disgrace.

More Bibles, please!

Hooray! The Regione di Veneto is passing out Bibles to all the students! Here’s why:

“We’re convinced that the shift towards secularism, often rooted in the precepts of relativism and nihilism, cannot be an effective response to a world in continual evolution…”

What was that about “continual evolution?” According to the Regione di Veneto website,

“The secular laws of our nation are written in the Bible, and it contains the religious norms of our spiritual life. To clarify, our proposal of obligatory Christian education does not infringe upon the Concordat.”

The Concordat means the Lateran Treaty, the agreement with the Catholic Church that public schools will be draped with crucifixes and students will receive (optional – meaning you can sit in the hallway for an hour if you choose) Catholic religious education. In a sense, this is even worse: it’s obligatory, as the website makes clear. What about all those students from non-religious families? They are to be taught that even secularism is Christian, Christian is Catholic and there is to be no escape from Jesus, ever.

Italy is in the throes of a full-fledged War Against Secularism. Everyone from Joseph Ratzinger to the law-makers in Parliament to the regional and local levels of government are caught up in a crusade against the very principles of secularism. Which is ironic, because the Italian Constitution defines laicity, or secularism, as a “supreme principle of the State.”

I hope the students actually read their Bibles instead of trashing them, though. There would be no better way to make ardent secularists out of them.