Leaving the church: advantages and disadvantages | consequences for tax, funeral& co

Churches in Germany have been struggling with dwindling membership numbers for years. Since 1990, around 9.5 million believers have left the two major Christian denominations. This article deals with the advantages and disadvantages of leaving the church.

Church resignation wage statement with church tax crossed out

In this article

Before we look at these aspects, however, it is interesting to take a look at the motives that motivate people to leave the church. A sociologist of religion at the University of Munster sees one reason for the dwindling importance of the church in the high level of prosperity and education and the good security, for example, the social and pastoral services of the church would simply no longer be in demand.

Leaving the church – reasons

A study carried out by the Diocese of Essen in cooperation with the University of Siegen and the YMCA University of Kassel also looked into this question and asked it of people who had already left the church. In most cases, the church tax turns out to be the trigger, but less the actual cause for leaving the church. These can be found rather

  • in the alienation between believers and the institution church
  • in the inadequate world view propagated by the church (image of women, celibacy, homosexuality)
  • in the arrogance of the church superiors in the course of many scandals
  • in the lack of credibility

Especially at the age of 23-35 years, that means also with many expectant families, the resignation rate is very high. Here many people realize for the first time, when they look at their paycheck, that the church actually costs them money.

Leaving the church – procedure

Leaving the church Man leaves the church

In Germany, according to Article 4 para. 1, 2 of the Basic Law (GG) freedom of religion. Conversely, there is therefore also negative religious freedom. The state is also obliged to recognize if someone does not want to belong to a certain religion (anymore). This means that no legal consequences (church tax, compulsory participation in religious education) may be linked to membership.

How to leave the church is regulated by the laws on leaving the church of the respective federal state. Leaving the church must be done in person before the competent registry office or. be declared to the local court. Only in Bremen it can take place directly with church.

Tip: Alternatively, the submission of a written declaration is sufficient. However, please note: Since this must be notarized, you will incur additional costs here.

In order to successfully carry out the leaving of the church, you must consider the following:

  • Presentation of the identity card/passport with the last certificate of registration
  • Presentation of the family book for married/divorced people
  • Cost of administrative fees between 5.50 € and 60€ (depending on the federal state and office, only in Brandenburg free of charge)

Children under the age of 12 are bound to their parents in their religious affiliation. Only from the age of 14 they are considered to be of religious age and are allowed to make the step. In between, this can only be done with the consent of the legal guardians.

If you have completed your resignation from the church

  • the religious community,
  • the registration office,
  • as well as the tax office

informed about it. The latter, in particular, is crucial, since this is where the removal of religious affiliation from the payroll card is. Afterwards the resigned do not pay church tax any more.

Leaving the church – consequences

What the positive or. As far as the negative consequences of leaving the church are concerned, we are on thin ice on this subject. For many, this is more of an emotional decision, the consequences of which are difficult to grasp in a conventional sense. In this context, for example, there is often talk – from both sides – of greater personal freedom.


One of the advantages of leaving the church, however, can be summed up very well in figures: the elimination of the church tax. This, as noted above, is not the cause in most cases, but is nonetheless the trigger for the move.

By type. 140 GG, religious communities are entitled to levy taxes as corporations under public law. Church tax is calculated on the basis of income tax. In Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, the tax rate for members of a religious denomination is 8 percent; in the rest of Germany, it is 9 percent. The bottom line here is that for a married couple with a medium income, after taking into account all tax benefits (z.B. special expense allowance of 36 euros per person per year), a savings of several hundred euros per year stand.

Attention: Even if the declaration of resignation becomes effective immediately, the church tax liability ends only at the end of the month of resignation resp. depending on the federal state, even one month later.

With the resignation from the religious community, the obligation to participate in religious education also expires. Especially for adolescents this can have a positive and liberating effect, if they do not (anymore) feel addressed by ‘their’ religion.

From the point of view of constitutional law, therefore, there are definitely advantages to leaving a church.


In the labor law resp. However, leaving a church can also have a negative effect in terms of ecclesiastical law. You should definitely consider this before you resign.

If, for example, your employer is a church institution or church-run (Caritas, Diakonie, hospitals, kindergartens), such a step can have serious consequences. In most cases, the employment relationship is bound to the membership in the church, which is why the termination of the membership is often accompanied by a dismissal.

From the point of view of church law, there is (inevitably) a much longer catalog of negative consequences. In 2012, the German Bishops’ Conference issued a "General Decree on Leaving the Church". This lists the following legal consequences for a person who has left the Church:

  • Exclusion from the sacraments (exception: danger of death),
  • Exclusion from baptismal sponsorship and from confirmation sponsorship,
  • loss of membership in parochial and diocesan councils (z. B. Parish council and church council resp. Asset management council, diocesan pastoral council, etc.),
  • Exclusion from church offices and functions,
  • Loss of the right to vote and stand for election in the church,
  • Exclusion of membership in public church associations,
  • ecclesiastical marriage only with permission of the local Ordinary,
  • Exclusion from church burial, unless there has been some sign of repentance before death.

Before going down this path, you should therefore decide for yourself to what extent you are prepared to give up these rights, such as the possibility of baptism/communion/confirmation for your children, a church wedding or funeral. funeral, to do without. In the end, this is always a very personal and intimate decision.

Tip: Leaving the church, by the way, does not have to be a never-ending process. Re-entry is often possible without any problems, for example, if the person concerned has rediscovered his or her faith conviction. However, you must contact the church directly and not a government agency.

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