German groups slam Catholic 'pay to pray' decree

BERLIN (AP) — A Catholic reform group in Germany has criticized the country's bishops for announcing that believers who don't pay religious taxes won't be able to receive the sacrament, become godparents or receive a church burial.

The bishops' decree last week is part of an attempt to stem the steady flow of people who opt out of paying up to nine percent of their income tax to their affiliated church.

The practice ensures Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches receive over €4 billion each annually.

The group 'We are the Church' said Monday that last week's decree by the bishops was "the wrong signal at the wrong time."

It says bishops should try to understand why people are leaving the Roman Catholic Church instead of threatening them with sanctions.