Government Begins Formal Discussions on Financing Religious Institutions

August 5, 2004

Source: The New York Times

On August 5, 2004 The New York Times reported, "The Spanish government has begun formal discussions on a proposal to expand financing to religious institutions, and security officials say that one intention is to subsidize mosques to make them less dependent on money from militant groups abroad. The Justice Ministry proposal, which legal scholars say is likely to test the limits of Spain's separation of church and state, reflects a widespread belief among counterterrorism officials here that Spanish mosques are vulnerable to the influences of militant groups because they feel the need to turn to the militants for money. The discussions, led by Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the justice minister, are still in early stages, officials said. The ministry has not decided what form the proposal will take, or if it will be submitted to Parliament for approval, a justice official said. In public, Mr. López Aguilar and his deputies have mainly portrayed the proposal as egalitarian, intended to offer all of Spain's major religions the same treatment given the Roman Catholic Church, which has received state financing under a supposedly temporary agreement reached with the Vatican in 1979. But officials in the Interior and Justice Ministries say there is another motive as well. 'It's about keeping them from having to look outside for financing because the state does not, in a way, support their activities,' Antonio Camacho, the secretary of state security at the Interior Ministry, said in an interview."