The Italian government signed on March 20, 2000 two concordates ("intese") between Italy and the Italian Buddisth Union (UBI), and between Italy and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Italy has a system of concordates called "Intese" regulating the State's relations with a number of religious bodies. Concordates provide inter alia for spiritual assistance in the military forces, hospitals, public schools and jails, and legal recognition of marriages performed by a priest or minister. An important feature is the possible entrance of the religious bodies with a concordate into the 0,8% system. This is a peculiar Italian system where each taxpayer should devote 0,8% of his or her taxes either to a religious body or to the national public charity system by crossing the preferred institution's case on the tax form. Unlike in Germany, if the taxpayer fails to cross a case he or she does not keep the money, that is divided between the different bodies according to their national percentage scores (unless they explicity declare that they want to keep only the 0,8% of those crossing their name). For example, if one does not cross any case and the Catholic Church case is crossed by 90% of those who crossed a case, and the Baptist Church by 2%, 90% of 0,8% of taxes paid by the non-crosser will go to the Catholic Church, 2% of 0,8% to the Baptist Church, and so on. The percentage of the State charity, plagued by scandals, remains minimal. Jehovah's Witnesses would not accept their share of the non-crossers' money and would receive only the 0.8% of those explicitly designating their denomination. Most Churches advertise through TV and other campaigns to capture the unchurched's 0,8%. Participant Churches and religions include, so far, the Catholic Church (from 1984), Waldensians and Methodists (1984), Seventh-day Adventists (1986), Assemblies of God (1986), the Jewish Communities (1987), Baptists (1993) and Lutherans (1993).
The concordates with the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Buddhist Union are both historically significant. Italy will become the first country where the Jehovah's Witnesses will be supported by taxpayers' money and will have much more than a simple "recognition", and Buddhism will be the first non-theistic religion to sign a concordate with the Italian government.
The concordates should now be approved by the Parliament in order to become effective, and some opposition by the anti-cult lobby is expected in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses.
See full text of the concordate with the Jehovah's Witnesses (in Italian)
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