Local municipalities in Italy ask taxes from religious schools

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

In the past few days in Italy, several municipalities have started asking religious schools to pay taxes for property and local services, despite the resistance of the Catholic Church.

Istituto Gonzaga, a catholic school in Milan.
Image: Friedrichstrasse.

The request of the municipalities results from the sentence of the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation on July 8, recognising as legitimate the request of the Municipality of Livorno asking religious schools to pay property taxes.

Requests have come from the Municipality of Bogliasco, next to Genova, and from the deputies of Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) of the regional counsel of Lombardy. The first case is of the mayor Luca Pastorino that in last years received several refusals of his requests for payment because of the religious nursery school and retirement home. In the second case, the M5S party asks to the regional government to assure the local administrations of the region regularly apply the sentence of the Supreme Court.

The case on which the Court has ruled was of the religious schools Santo Spirito and Immacolata in Livorno, Tuscany, to pay over 422,000 euros in arrears for the period from 2004 to 2009. The request was advanced by the Municipality of Livorno in 2010.

The city reasoned, "because the users of the private schools pay a frequency fee, this kind of activity is considered as a commercial one" ((it)) Italian language: poiché gli utenti della scuola paritaria pagano un corrispettivo per la frequenza, tale attività è di carattere commerciale .

In 2014 the Italian municipal tax discipline has changed from the ICI system to the IMU system by the Monti government. A mean cost per student criterion is used to tax only the schools that receive a fee higher than the mean cost per student fixed by the State. The new law is not retroactive, so the taxes requested in arrears from 2006 to 2009 are under the ICI system.

Minister of Education Stefania Giannini said a "more general reflection" ((it)) Italian language: riflessione più generale is needed. Claudio De Vincenti, undersecretary to the prime minister, said "a discussion table will be opened with the non-profit associations, religious association included" ((it)) Italian language: apriremo quindi un tavolo di confronto con le organizzazioni non profit, comprese quelle religiose .

Undersecretary for Education Mr. Toccafondi says "many schools will increase their fees or they will quit. Then the State will have to find new resources to build new structures and manage them" ((it)) Italian language: Molti istituti aumenteranno le rette o chiuderanno. Così lo Stato dovrà trovare nuove risorse per costruire nuove strutture e gestirle .

Also the president of the Lombardy region, Roberto Maroni, has reacted by proposing some regional counter-measures to finance private schools.

The secretary general of CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference), Nunzio Galantino, has called the sentence "dangerous" ((it)) Italian language: pericolosa and "ideological" ((it)) Italian language: "ideologica : "We face a dangerous sentence. Who takes the decisions, do it with less ideology. Because I have the clear sensation that with this way of thinking, they wait the praise of some ideologized supporters. Indeed, they don't understand what kind of good service private schools held" ((it)) Italian language: Siamo davanti a una sentenza pericolosa. Chi prende decisioni, lo faccia con meno ideologia. Perché ho la netta sensazione che con questo modo di pensare, si aspetti l'applauso di qualche parte ideologizzata. Il fatto è che non ci si sta rendendo conto del servizio che svolgono le scuole pubbliche paritarie .

Italian secularist associations are concerned the Government will modify the law in order to maintain an exception for religious schools. The secularist magazine MicroMega describe the court's judgement as historic.

The Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) has launched a petition which now has more than 11,000 signatures, asking the government to respect and execute the sentence of the Supreme Court. It is also encouraging citizens to ask for application of the law in their local municipalities.


Sources

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