This article describes a relatively new phenomenon in Europe—people seeking either formally or informally to renounce their ties to the religion in which they were baptized.
In some cases, the issue is getting removed from the state’s rolls that determine whose tax money goes where. In at least one instance (whose significance is noted here ), there’s an effort to use the state to compel the church to accept one’s renunciation.
The former is merely a function of the particular form of religious establishment existing in those countries and doesn’t pose any new problems. The latter case raises some very interesting questions of religious liberty. An individual is, after all, free to give or withhold his assent to a particular set of religious propositions or faith commitments, at least from the point of view of the secular state. But can’t the church have its own conception of who is in or out of communion with it? Allowing Jean (well, Rene) to “de-baptize” himself with the assistance of the state seems to mean that the state becomes the arbiter of the church’s membership. If the state cam compel the church to recognize a person’s renunciation of affiliation, can it also make the church accept a person with whom it doesn’t wish to be in communion?
There’s more in the article, but this is enough for a Friday afternoon.