34. International Public Finance Conference
Financing Religious Services in Theory and PracticeOrhan Şener
Financing religious services in Turkey generates a lot of social, economic and political problems, such as unfair treatment of non Muslims and non Sunni sects of Islam, misrepresentation in political decision making process, over allocation of budget funds to only one dominating sect. In addition to these, serious fiscal exploitation problems of unrecognized sects and denominations occur. Although, Turkey is a secular country according to her constitution, however state and the religion is not separated in practice, due to central government budgetary support of religious services. In addition to that, religious services are provided only to the Sunni majority, excluding Christians, Jews and Alevis which is biggest minority sect in Turkey. Although these non Sunni groups and Alevis pay compulsory taxes to finance the religious services, but they are not provided any services. For this reason, I employ a research methods of public economy that can be used to determine the nature of religious services. Then I refer to equity and efficiency principles of public economy as developed by Richard Musgrave. Since religious services are individually satisfied a different technique of funding must be applied.But, religious services are considered as a socialized merit good by the governmentand thus it is publicly provided in Turkey and in Sunni dominated countries. Although, the European Human Rights Court considered this practice is ahuman right violation, however a fair funding method have not been accepted yet. To prove that religious services are private good rather than being pure public or merit good, I examine the different funding systems in European and Anglo-Saxon countries. All practices in Western World shows that, although countries are employing different financing techniques, however they considered religious services as private good. Because to improve the secularism they separate the religion and state holding a neutral position among various sects and religions. For this reason state is not supposed to intervene in religion and doesn’t allow religion involve in state affairs. I think that this kind of understanding of secularism is the precondition of sustainable democracy.For this reason, this paper aims at introducing a proper methodof financing religious services, complying with the efficiency and equity principles of the main goals of the public economy. Thus, I examine the effects of religion finance as practiced in Turkey on efficiency and equity groundsof public economy and introduce two methods applied in European Union. I conclude that,the best financing religious services must based on the voluntary charitable contributions, like in European countries and as practiced by the Alevis in Turkey, in order to cope with all the existing financing and political and legal problems in Turkey.