State and church funding talks ongoing
(CS/jm) Despite reports circulating Friday that the state and the country's churches had reached an agreement on funding, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel at a press conference said that negotiations were still ongoing.
Earlier in the day it had emerged that the government and state-affiliated religions had reportedly reached a funding deal, after last year's announcement of a complete overhaul of the system of state-affiliated religions.
According to “Luxemburger Wort” sources, the deal foresaw that the state would continue paying salaries of priests and that a new uniform religious education course at schools would be launched.
At a press conference on Friday, however, Bettel said that no final agreement had been reached and that he had been charged by the coalition parties to continue talks in his position as minister of religious affairs.
Bettel would not confirm information that the fourth question of the consultative referendum on constitutional reform, asking the public's opinion on state funding of religious groups, would be dropped.
It had been speculated that the question would become obsolete should the state and religious bodies reach an agreement beforehand.
At the heart of the matter stands Luxembourg's system of state-affiliated faith group. The so-called “culture conventionnés” receive state support to fund their activities. Currently benefitting from the subsidies are the Catholic, Protestant, Reformed Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches, as well as the Jewish community.
Bettel refused to comment whether the Muslim Shura would also be included in the future.
Shortly after the triple coalition took office, the Premier announced that the government wanted to push forward with efforts to separate church and state, including cuts to salary funding for priests, catechists and religious education teachers worth around 55 million euros annually.
Plans to abolish religious education at schools ran into widespread protest, with thousands of signatures collected by supporters of the church.