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Une situation tripartite

To summarize, Church-State relations in Spain resulted in a veritable three-party situation involving :

 the Catholic Church, with whom relations are governed by an international treaty and whose presence is much more obvious in daily life ;
 the three religions with which the State signed agreements of cooperation ;
 the other religions, that are governed by the common law of associations.

Two major problems stand out.
On one hand, are the restrictions set out in article 7 of the LOLR on signing agreements legitimate ? The increasing number of groups brought about by the granting of religious freedom certainly made it necessary to set up conditions on what groups would have access to this regime. But are they impartial ? Of course they are of a sociological nature and are not referred, in the form of the agreements being considered, to the content of the religions. The analysis of the parliamentary debates shows that the phrase "cooperation while taking into account the specific characteristics of each denomination" has been eliminated from the text. On the other hand, however, it seems arbitrary to let the State decide which religions are well established. Certain groups, which have only been established for a short time due to the recent nature of religious freedom, are unable to meet the criteria of numbers or notorious presence. The main minority religions could also be faced with the first problem, their roots in Spanish history, however, are unquestionable.
This situation is very far from that of the Catholic Church, whose cooperation is institutionalised and enjoys other pre or para-constitutional advantages. The agreements made with the Vatican in 1976 and 1979 are international treaties that were made prior to the LOLR. In their development, a joint commission between the Catholic Church and the State was created while the other religions were subject to a different regime. Article 8 of the LOLR outlines the creation of a commission that would decide for them.
Lastly, only the Catholic Church completely benefits from the financial advantages set forth by the agreements of cooperation. However, this situation is not a result of discrimination on the part of the State. Indeed, it was those who signed the conventions uniting it with the three main religious minorities that refused to benefit from the religion tax, a portion of income tax that can be paid back to Churches at the request of the taxpayer in order to help maintain their independence. It currently represents 0.5% of the total income tax collection. The taxpayer decides whether their contribution goes to the Catholic Church or to general interest social welfare works.

D 13 septembre 2012    AClaude Proeschel

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