Leaving a church in Germany?

by Nika Bee 14 Replies latest jw friends

  • Nika Bee
    Nika Bee

    I have a technical/bureaucratical question for anyone in Germany who has experience with this.

    The background is, I got baptised as a JW as a teenager in Germany, then moved to the US, where I DAed.

    From my research on the internet, I seem to understand, that when you get baptised in Germany, they inform the appropriate authority depending on the state you live in, in Bavaria this would be the "Standesamt". Is that correct? Or does one have to do this by oneself? In that case I certainly didn't but it could be that my mother did.

    So if one wants to leave the religion officially, so that it doesn't appear in your official documentation, it is not enough to write a DA letter, but one has to go through this authority.

    Does anyone have information on this? How is the process? Do I need to make an appointment? Do I have to go there in person, or would it be sufficient to send the paperwork? It seems that there is a fee to pay. I will be in Germany end of January for just a few days, so I hope to be able to do this then.

    Any experience and information is appreciated! Thanks in advance

  • Jeffro

    Do you pay Church Tax in Germany as a member of JWs? If not, the registration probably isn't relevant to JWs. (I would have thought the registration of baptisms there is specific to the Catholic Church.)

  • Nika Bee
    Nika Bee

    No, as a JW one doesn't pay taxes, only the Lutherans and Catholics. But since JW became a "Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts" a couple of years ago, which they were very proud of, they would be allowed to take taxes.

    As I understand, any organisation which is a "Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts" could theoretically register their members. I am trying to find out, if they actually do.

  • Jeffro

    Nika Bee:

    As I understand, any organisation which is a "Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts" could theoretically register their members. I am trying to find out, if they actually do.

    If JWs will go to court over having to obtain a free permit for 'preaching', you can bet they would fight tooth-and-nail to avoid paying church taxes or for registering membership with 'worldly' governments.

  • mariu

    Jeffro, the so-called "church tax" in Germany is effectively a membership fee that goes to the religion, not a tax that goes to the state.

    Basically, religions with the status of "Körperschaft öffentlichen Rechts" can use the state's tax system to collect these fees from everyone who's registered as a member. The state transfers the collected money to the religious organisation, it just charges a small percentage for the administrative effort.

    The JWs have repeatedly stated they won't use this service. Because they're different from Christendom and don't do tithing and yada yada.

  • valkyrie
  • TheOldHippie

    Just send a letter to Standesamt asking what your Kirchenzugehoerigkeit is, and that you want to change it according to what it says.

    In my youth, the church tax was at 10 per cent, and so quite a few left the churches in order to get a somewhat better economy :-)

  • Weana

    Hi NikaBee,

    here you find the constitution of JW Germany:


    According to Statut §15(1), you left "JWs in Germany" already when you went abroad and associated with a JW' congregation in the US! Of course, from WTS point of view, you were still a member of JWs, but you were not a member of the legal entity "JWs in Germany" anymore. So it is not necessary for you to contact any state authority.

    Just some additional background info, if anyone is interested in:

    Germany (as well as some other European states) wants to ensure that anyone can end church membership at any time. But some churches (e.g. Roman Catholic Church!) do not allow termination of membership according to their church laws. Therefore, the state names a worldly authority ("Standesamt") to be responsible to receive someones declaration of leaving a church. And the state obligates the churches to accept such termination of membership (e.g., Roman Catholic Church has no right to receive church tax from anyone for the time after he left the church at Standesamt).

    But, contrary to Roman Catholic Church, "JWs in Germany" (as JWs all over the world) do accept that any member can end membership himself

    - by sending an accordant written declaration to local body of elders, or to Bethel (Statut §15(2)),

    - or even by just verbally declaring to leave JWs, if there are at least two witnesses for such a declaration (Statut §15(4)).

    These are the common ways for disassociating from JWs.

    Additionally, according to state law, there exists the possibility to disassociate from JWs be going to state authority ("Standesamt"). But this is very rarely used among JWs, as it is more complicated than the possibilities for disassociation provided by JWs. At Standesamt, you even have to pay some fees (I think, about 40 USD) to state authority. But, of course, if any JW who wants to quit doesn't want to send a disassociation letter to local body of elders or to Bethel at all (as he feels that sending such a letter to elders would be equal to accept authority of elders?), he might prefer to go to "Standesamt" and to declare there that he disassociates from JWs. "Standesamt" would inform Bethel from such a declaration, Bethel would inform the local congregation, and the result is the same (disassociation; announcement in congregation as usual: "... is no longer one of JWs")

  • J. Hofer
    J. Hofer


    did you marry in germany? otherwise the only document where a religion may be listed is your birth certificate. since you were baptized later (were/are your parents JWs?) and most probably didn't supply that info to the standesamt, especially since JWs weren't an official religion back then (i suppose), there shouldn't be any files on your religious background anywhere.

    in any case, the standesamt would indeed be the place to get more info on the issue.

  • Nika Bee
    Nika Bee

    Thank you everyone! This helps a lot.

    I will write to the Standesamt just in case. My mother is a JW. When I got baptised during secondary school, I went to the school office to declare it, but not to the Standesamt. I am not sure if my mother did.

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