Press Release #9
PRESS RELEASE 29th September 2015
SHSG: DO RELIGIONS RECEIVE GOVT FUNDS?
(See Open Letter text below)
The Secular Humanist Society of Gibraltar (SHSG) has sent an open letter to the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, asking questions as to whether Gibraltar religions receive tax payers’ money.
‘This is a question we are asked frequently. We have found it practically impossible to get any clear answer from anybody and are asking for clarity from Government in order for the community to be better informed. For example, recently some extensive construction works have been going on at St Paul’s Church in Varyl-Begg Estate, and questions have been asked regarding who is paying for them. We do not know. It’s in everyone’s interest, we believe, to clarify this matter and others like it by asking straightforward questions. It’s for this reason we have written to the Chief Minister requesting a formal meeting, providing him with advance notice of our questions, and making all of this public and transparent for all to see via an Open Letter.
‘SHSG fully respects the right of any citizen to religious freedom – which must, of course, include the rights of non-believers to full democratic rights, too. However, we aim to foster a climate of transparency and openness on issues of religion which a modern society, in our view, deserves.
‘Issues related to the religions in Gibraltar are no different to any other. As social organisations, the mystique and the mystery is something we must dispel in order to demand the same level of openness required of any other sector of our society. SHSG is interested in bringing clarity and dialogue to issues related to Gibraltar as a secular constitutional State, and we believe opening up public discourse all round can only be helpful.
‘We look forward to hearing from the Chief Minister in order to have the opportunity to discuss the issues,’ Darren Olivero, SHSG Chairman stated.
SHSG Media Team
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OPEN LETTER TEXT:
(Also included in embargo conditions detailed above)
Date: Monday 28 September 2015
Subject: Open Letter from SHSG: Religions and Funding in Gibraltar
Dear Chief Minister,
The Secular Humanist Society of Gibraltar (SHSG) is a local organisation which aims to represent the concerns of citizens who identify as non-religious – taking in agnostics, atheists and secular humanists. It is our understanding that the vast majority of Gibraltarians today only identify as ‘belonging’ to particular religious groupings on cultural rather than theological or belief grounds.
Nonetheless, all this said, we respect the democratic right of any citizen to freely hold their faith within a modern, rule of law society. SHSG plays its part, therefore, in asking the questions and requiring answers to issues which the weight of tradition and influence often fail to provide.
SHSG is keen to clarify various issues related to religion in Gibraltar, and would very much welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your convenience so to do. We would be grateful if you could advise us of a date and time that might be suitable.
In terms of points we are interested to elucidate, I take this advance opportunity to summarise and enumerate them for your information:
Does your Administration – or has any Administration before – formally or informally set aside any financing or funding whatsoever for expenses or projects related to the various established religions in Gibraltar? If so, could you advise us of the nature of said funding or subsidy.
Does any Government-related company formally or informally set aside any financing or funding whatsoever for expenses or projects related to the various established religions in Gibraltar? If so, could you advise us of the nature of said funding or subsidy.
Are any of the established religions in Gibraltar exempted from liability to tax for any purposes and to any degree? If so, could you advise us of the details.
In case of being re-elected in the coming Elections, what plans if any does your Administration have for publishing any financial incentives, subsidies, or funds made available or assigned to the established religions in the future?
Looking forward to your earliest response, we remain,
David B Gibbins