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Wasmuth v. Germany, No. 12884/03, ECtHR (Fifth Section), 17 February 2011

Type Judgment
Case number 12884/03


Church tax in Germany. The indication of a sign on the tax card of a taxpayer, revealing that he does not belong to one of the beneficiary denominations, does not constitute a breach of Articles 8 and 9 of ECHR.


Normative references

Art. 8 ECHR
Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 14 ECHR


1. Freedom to manifest one's religion or belief also has a negative aspect, namely the right of the individual not to be obliged to act in such a way that it can be inferred that he has - or does not have - such convictions. The State’s authorities cannot interfere with a person's freedom of conscience by inquiring about their religious beliefs or by forcing them to manifest them.
(In the present case, the levying discipline of Church tax (“Kirchensteuer”) in Germany has been brought to the attention of the Court. The applicant, an employee, had disputed that his tax card - a document sent to the employer - showed a sign  from which it could be inferred that he did not belong to one of the religious denominations benefiting from the tax. The Court, while finding an interference with the applicant's right to freedom of religion - namely, its negative profile - held that the measure was not disproportionate and unreasonable, as the use of the document was limited to the relation between the employee and the employer and it was solely aimed at advising the latter not to pay the tax, through a deduction)


The solution to the present case differs from the one adopted in the case Folgerø v. Norway (15472/02). In the Court's opinion, the fact that the State’s authorities did not ask the applicant why he did not adhere to a religious denomination was decisive.