|The government of France has ruled that the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith is not a religion and now says it owes $50 million (300 million francs) in back taxes. And, in May this year, the French Tax Authority ruled the Witnesses ineligible for a church exemption and gave the group a whopping 60% tax rate, which amounts to $25 million, which was doubled by penalties and interest.In a full page advert in the New York Times, the society has written to France’s president, Jacques Chirac, asking him to reverse the tax authority’s decision.|
Describing the bill as “discriminatory and unjust” the governing body says it will appeal to the European Court in an effort to get the decision reversed.
In the letter to Mr Chirac the governing body says:
“We believe the entire assessment arises from an erroneous application of the law governing the exercise of religion, and it could affect donations to any religion, charity or not-for-profit organisation the tax administration chooses to target in the same manner.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses in
|France will challenge this gross act of religious discrimination. “They will do this not only to avoid an unjust and oppressive tax but also to help assure that all French people enjoy freedom of religion.”The society says it has been criticised in recent years by anti-sect organisations. It has 220,000 members in France and has done mission work since 1900.|
“Their intent seems to be to break us financially and stop our work in France,” said Judah Schroeder of the Watch Tower Society.