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Several months ago, a Romanian NGO's investigation (Recorder - The Clan of the Great White) revealed that the public spending involving the Romanian Orthodox Church seems to be very opaque.

I am trying to understand if public spending involving religious organizations is treated somewhat differently in the Western countries (e.g. EU, US). I guess that by law there should be no special treatment, so I am interested more in the de facto state about this topic.

I have managed to find this National Secular Society article arguing that something might be wrong with the UK's public spending involving the churches, so I guess the UK might be an example (since the source is called "secularism", it's not exactly neutral).

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    Are you asking about schools? Of the top of my head, I can't think of much other public spending that goes to churches. I suppose there may be some support of the physical buildings (see Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme). What other kind of public spending do you suppose there is?
    – James K
    Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 20:56
  • @James K Yes, support for the physical buildings mostly.
    – Alexei
    Commented Jan 30, 2022 at 6:25
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    Very jurisdiction specific. Most of Western Europe has or had in recent history established churches. The U.S. has had a quite strict separation of church and state. In Greece, Orthodox Priests are government employees.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 21:15

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The German State pays about half a billion Euros in Staatsleistungen per year to Christian churches as restitution for expropriation of church property that happened some 200 years ago. The payments themselves are no secret.

It is still a bit opaque, since the churches can spend the money without any oversight, and since the payment is pretty much in violation of the constitution.

According to §140 of the German Grundgesetz (semantics aside the Grundgesetz is our constitution), the articles from the Weimar constitution that regulate restitutions to the church are actually part of the constitution of the FRG. Those paragraphs say the legislation for church restitution should devolve from a federal level to the level of the German federal states. They also use a specific legal term "ablösen", which means that the restitution payments should be finished at some point, which would cost the churches, who traditionally exert a lot of influence in German politics, a lot of money. The Grundgesetz was approved in 1949, and very little headway in the matter has been made since.

I guess one can weasel one's way through an argument that all of this is perfectly legal, but if payments to religious organizations based on ancient claims that by law are supposed to have been wound down a long time ago would happen in any other country we (as in "we/us Germans") would certainly point fingers and claim that something untoward is happening.

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The UK has a notion of "Listed Buildings". These are buildings that are recognised as part of the national heritage. Generally, listed buildings can't be modified or destroyed. Any building may be listed, but many mosques, temples, synagogues, and particularly churches are listed, as they are old and culturally significant.

Listing a building places expectations on the building's owner. The owner can't develop the building. Thus listing reduces the value of a building. There can be a temptation to allow a listed building to fall into disrepair, so its listing is removed and it can be sold profitably. This is counter to the intention of listing, which is to preserve.

The government offers financial support to owners of listed places of worship. It takes the form of grants which relieve the owner of the sales tax (VAT) on the cost of repair. Note that many other owners of listed buildings (such as schools or businesses) would be able to reclaim the VAT as a business cost from HMRC.

It seems to be a fairly transparent scheme. The amount of money available is capped by its budget at £42 million, and there are listings of the amount paid. In December 2021 £2,657,970.11 was paid under the scheme.

You can visit the scheme's website http://www.lpwscheme.org.uk/index-3.html (it's clear that they haven't spent lots of money on a webdesigner)

Far more money is spent on education. Many schools are linked to churches. But again, this money has a specific purpose and has to be spent on teachers, as these "voluntary aided schools" provide free education. The budget of the school is quite separate from that of the parish.

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