Conference on Public Funding of Religious Communities in the EU
The conference on the public funding of religious communities in the European Union took place on June 17, 2021, as part of the series of conferences on religious freedom during the pandemic. It was the fourth event of its kind and was organized in the same hybrid format, physical and online. Archdeacon George Grigoriță, the moderator of the conference and Patriarchal Counsellor at the Holy Synod Chancellery, and Conf. Adrian Lemeni were present at the “Dumitru Stăniloae” Lifelong Learning Centre in Bucharest, while Fr Sorin Șelaru, from the Representation of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions, presented online.
Archdeacon Grigoriță detailed his conclusions on the event: “Today’s conference analyzed the way the State finances religious communities, especially with regard to the realities in the European Union. We are describing how a state relates to the religious communities present on its territory and how that state intends to support those communities. The specialists have systematized three types of approach: a distinct cooperation between the state and the communities, an almost total separation and, the third type, the special status granted to a religious community.”
Fr Sorin Selaru showed that the EU respects the integrity and specificity of each state member in organizing its public funding of religious cults: “if we are to consider the relationship between the European Union and religious communities in Europe, it has already been pointed out that the religious field is the competence of the Member States, and the EU respects the way this dimension is organized at each national level. In the treaty according to which the EU functions (the Lisbon Treaty), the article 17 very clearly states that the EU respects and does not prejudice against the status that the churches enjoy under national law. Furthermore, the third paragraph of the same article states that the "specific identity and contribution" of religious communities in Europe is recognized." The same situation can be observed with regards to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR): "In its case law, the ECHR has clearly confirmed the freedom of states to contribute to the financing of religions and the acceptance of differences in approach between religions. Both in the framework of EU policies and in the case law of the ECHR, the principle of subsidiarity is properly applied in the field of public funding of religious cults.”
Prof. Lemeni offered more information on the Romanian context: "Article 10 of the Law on Cults provides the criterion of proportionality regarding the financing of cults, but also the criterion of the real needs of the cult." He also explained that the Romanian state public support is not a privilege, but is rooted in historical reality.