Discrimination of non-church members in Spain (1978-11)

  • Date / 1978
  • Location / Spain
  • Ratifying Body / Board of Directors
  • Status / Archived

H.E. The Prime Minister, Don Adolfo Suarez,
Palacio de la Monlcloa
Madrid, Spain

Your Excellency,
1978 is the year in which the United Nations is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly, a body of which your country has been a member since December 1951. It is distressing to see that 30 years after the declaration some of these rights have not yet become part and parcel of the laws of all member states.

Through the media we learned that your Government has prepared a bill which, when adopted by Parliament, will force all Spanish citizens to pay church-rates, whether they belong to a church or not.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to change one’s religion or belief. In our opinion this also includes the right not to profess a religion at all.

Article 20 of the same declaration states that no one may be compelled to belong to an association. To our mind this also implies that no one is compelled to support an association financially.

It seems to us that the present bill is incompatible with the above-mentioned articles of the Universal Declaration and if your Government shares the values expressed in the Declaration, we think it ought to amend the bill in order to have it apply only to those who are church members, though personally we think that matters like church rates ought to be settled directly by the bodies and persons concerned without any government interference.

If, as has been suggested, the tax yield from non-church members should not be appropriated to use by the churches, but be used for the common weal, we cannot but comment adversely upon such procedure. It would amount to an act of discrimination against non-church members. We think that for measures for which everybody will benefit, the expense should be borne by the whole population and we consider it objectionable to impose such taxes on only a small section of the population or to force non-church members to pay a relatively larger share of these expenses.

Sincerely yours,
Prof. Dr. Piet Thoenes,
Prof. Dr. Howard Radest, Prof. Dr. Mihailo Markovic,
c.c. The Spanish Ambassador in the Netherlands
Letter from the IHEU co-chairman 29.11.78

Suggested academic reference

'Discrimination of non-church members in Spain (1978-11)', Humanists International, Board of Directors, 1978

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