Category Archives: Current Events

Historical me – Voting

Voting ballot from 10 April 1938. ("Refer...

Voting ballot from 10 April 1938. (“Referendum and Großdeutscher Reichstag; Ballot; Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Reich that was enacted on 13 March 1938 and do you vote for the party of our leader; Adolf Hitler?; Yes; No” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I follow politics. I think, part of it is the spectacle, almost like a soap opera at times, but the larger reason is that I know from the stories of the past that politics are very important. Knowing what you believe in, what is right and wrong, can make the difference for the rest of the country. And, of course,we can change things, especially by voting. I take that very seriously. Voting for me is not just a privilege (although I certainly cherish it) but much more a duty. As a good citizen, I have a duty to ensure that my views are heard because it is when people ignore what’s going on that things go down the drain. But there is another reason why I value voting so much. And it is the story of my great-grandmother.

It was during the Third Reich. My great-grandmother was visiting relatives in a small village and there was a vote. I don’t know what the vote was for (but it was a national vote, so there are only three option: 1. parliamentary elections in late 1933, 2. parliamentary elections and referendum of 1936, and 3. a referendum on the annexation of Austria and parliamentary elections in 1938). In all three elections, more than 99% of the voters officially voted ad more than 98% of the votes were in favour of the only party who stood in those elections. Clearly this is ot what happened in reality. Here is what my great-grandmother experienced (as told by my mother): Everyone was required to come and vote, even my great-grandmother who didn’t even live in that village. Since it was small everyone would know who did or did not vote. My great-grandmother was told what to vote and then some member of the SA (a kind of militia that served as a police force without needing to keep to police rules at the time) with a weapon stood behind her, looked over her shoulder and made sure she voted as intended.

Today we take the privilege of voting in secret far too lightly. I remember discussing this in a civics class and the teacher telling us how important it was that secret voting was required because if it was not, anyone who did want to vote in secret could become the scapegoat or outcast because people would know it was them who didn’t follow the majority (apparently this happened in East Germany during GDR times). I hope that these things will never happen again in my countries (I wish I could say never again full stop but we all know they are happening right now all over the world).

Have you had similar experiences in your life or in your family’s past?

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Blackmail

Taxes

Yesterday I read a story on the BBC that blew my mind. Apparently, the Catholic Church in Germany has decided to make people pay for their sacraments. To understand how this works you need to know some background details. Since the 19th century, when the State took away much of the Catholic Church’s property, the state has been collecting a so-called church tax in compensation. That means, when you register with the government (which you have to do whenever you move), you also register your religious affiliation and whether you register as Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, you will be required to pay a tax. This tax isn’t a lot; 8% of your income tax. That means, if you earn 100 000€ a year and you pay 10000 in income taxes (I simplified the math here), you will need to pay an additional 800€ in church tax. In the last few years (or decades), more and more people have de-registered their religious affiliation and it has long been in contention whether that means that they are also leaving their Religion. I think we can all agree, that this is not necessarily the same (and personally I think it is not the same at all). Well, now the German Catholic Bishop’s Conference has decided to make it so officially. That means that if you de-register with the State, you also automatically leave the Catholic Church and the consequence of that is that you will be denied all sacraments, except for the last rites. Even a church funeral might be denied you if the deceased was not registered.

I am outraged. I have joined the CoE a while ago but if I had not this would have the last nail in the coffin to make me automatically leave the Catholic Church of Germany. How dare they connect the giving of the sacraments with paying a tax? How dare they make people pay for spiritual anything! It is properly unbelievable.And why would the Bishops think that this would mean less people leaving the church? I think this is going to make more people de-register; out of anger. I would. I am so agnry at them, I could scream. This is not what being a church is about, it it is not about giving people a space and support to encounter God and Jesus and explore their faith. This is pure power play. If you don’t pay taxes, we won’t let you go to communion. If you don’t pay taxes, we won’t let you be a godmother. If you don’t pay taxes, we won’t give you a funeral. It’s blackmail.

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Filed under Catholic Church, Current Events, Ethics, good vs. bad