Protecting a Monopoly
Stephen Selthoffer, a German freelance journalist who is also director for legal and media affairs of the Evangelical and Charismatic Church of Cologne, testified about the severe discrimination experienced by members of independent Christian denominations in Germany.
Selthoffer condemned the so-called sect commissioners of the two government-recognized and government-financed German churches the Catholic and Lutheran Churches. These individuals, he said, coveting significance and political power and citing potential problems, historical fears and worldwide worst-case scenarios, endeavor to frighten politicians into enacting oppressive government controls to protect the established churches monopoly on state finances and support.
The sect commissioners concerns stem at least in part from a massive exodus of members that has plagued Germanys two major religions in recent years. During 1995, the most recent year for which figures are available, 168,000 Catholics and 296,000 Lutherans in Germany quit their churches.
With approximately 900 small Christian churches in Germany today serving 300,000 citizens of all denominations, a significant number of German Christians have obviously chosen to worship outside the state churches. These citizens and their churches, according to Selthoffer, face false accusations from sect commissioners and federal officials coupled with money from the city coffers. As a result, independent Christian churches are forced into the position of using collections from their Sunday offerings in expensive legal defenses to counter spurious charges mounted by government experts.
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