En Alsace-Moselle... le concordat napoléonien, survivance anachronique, oblige les contribuables athées à payer les salaires des prêtres par le truchement de l'impôt.
In Alsace-Moselle the Concordat of 1801, an anachronistic survival, obliges atheist taxpayers to pay priests' salaries via their taxes.
Wow, really? Apparently so - in this region, priests (and rabbis, pastors etc.) of the Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist persuasion receive a state salary, as Class A bureaucrats! This is based on the fact that Alsace-Moselle wasn't part of France when the 1905 law was passed. But surely someone could have changed the situation since? Is there a huge priest-paying lobby in the area? Surely there's got to be a lot of people, whether religious or not, who would agree that non-Christians/Jews shouldn't be obligated to pay the salaries of religious figures, and that it should still be at the discretion of even believers.
Of course, tax breaks for organised religions are not uncommon all over the world, including (and correct me if I'm wrong) the US and NZ, but it surprises me that France, supposed bastion of secularism, goes a step further (at least in one region) by actually directly paying the priests. I don't want to get into an argument with anyone over the benefits of religion to society or anything along those lines - I'm certainly not trying to have a go at religion in general, I just was shocked to find this information out! I have mixed feelings about the law banning the full veil in public, as well as some other stuff which is usually defended under the "we are a secular society" heading, but I feel like the continued existence of this tax system in Alsace-Moselle really undermines the legitimacy of such laws (whether or not you agree with them). Surely France should be cleaning house on the Alsace-Moselle law before turning around and claiming that they're oh so secular? If I were a Muslim woman living in Alsace-Moselle, pretty sure I'd be either wearing my veil until they got rid of that law, or refusing to pay my taxes. (Or probably neither, since I don't know if I'm really the "political firebrand" type, but it's easy to pretend when one's a hypothetical Alsace-living, veil-wearing Muslim woman on the internet.)
I must say I wouldn't mind though if they made Good Friday a public holiday for the whole of France, instead of just for Alsace and Lorraine!