New Atheist Billboard in Italy Calls Out Wasteful Government Spending on Catholic Church

We gripe about church/state separation in America, but in Italy, a *lot* of taxpayer money goes toward funding the Catholic Church. The Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) is trying to raise the consciousness of other Italians on this matter.

They’re putting up the following billboard in the cities of Genoa (today) and Venice (tomorrow):

That roughly translates to: “With 6 billion Euro per year, Italy could work miracles.”

“Some of the budget cuts proposed by the Italian government were blocked by obstructionism from some castes”, Raffaele Carcano, secretary of UAAR, observes, “but here we are talking about an uber-caste so untouchable that not even Monti has the courage to question its privileges.” And it is not just a problem of ICI (the tax on buildings, which is not payed by Church’s hotels, clinics, … as long as they contain a chapel), as one would suppose by reading the newspapers: “Shall we talk about the 1.5 billion Euro that pays the teachers of religion, the billion Euro that goes into the ‘Otto per mille’, the 700 million Euros financing Catholic schools and universities?”, asks UAAR, with the numbers ready…

… Carcano continues: “it is incredible that the Catholic Church, the largest Italian real estate owner, it not asked to make the sacrifices that the economic situation calls for”. With six billions Italy could not only reduce its public debt, but also invest in research and education, as UAAR suggests in its poster.

This campaign follows the success of UAAR’s website icostidellachiesa.it (translated version here), which lists in detail the “fiscal privileges and the economic contributions the Church enjoys.”

Religions should be financed by their followers, not through taxpayer money that could be going to the public as a whole.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • M Vanroy

    With most Catholics residing outside of Italy / Vatican City you could even make a good case that Italy is subsidizing the rest of the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1535286477 Roxane Farrell Murray

    Interesting.  I wouldn’t mind seeing our atheist billboards moving past “We exist” and taking on various forms of xian privilege and creeping theocracy.  However, we seem to be stuck at the stage where many of us think that even simple declarations of our existence constitute “being a dick,” and others seem to think that the most important element of our billboards is the graphic design.  

    • Estevancarlos

      A billboard is useless if you can’t read it and if it is confusing visually. I work in design and have created a billboard. Your other point is valid though. However I would say the visibility movement is a way of gaining acceptance and maybe having our cause respected.

  • Anonymous

    that’s a lot of money, esp in these times when italy is struggling to maintain a social safety net and good bond rating. 

    • The Other Weirdo

      That’s a lot of money, at *ANY* time. That’s not piddly change we’re talking about like winning a $50mil lottery. One simply can’t hide 6 *BILLION* Euros, or hand-waive it away.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    Mussolini, Hitler’s pal, gave the Pope 109 acres to build Vatican City.
    He also put a lot of “religious stuff” into the law to win  over the Church.
    (But he referred to priests as “black germs”.)

    Source: Google Univ.

  • http://twitter.com/humanbeing2 elaine kilshaw

    However hard we try the CHurch has too strong a hold on polititians who could perhaps make a difference. But they get away with their  expense claims and have plenty of money so why should they care.Know the saying ;Im alright Jack’?

  • http://twitter.com/ilBabbo ilBabbo

    They also are the greatest source of tourist revenue. Their churches contain works of art that people from all over the world come to see. People march into their churches at no cost. The revenue they generate (at no cost to the state) far exceeds this money they receive. If they closed their churches (alone) to everyone but church goers there would be an even greater reason to whine.