Organization of Religious Communities in Austria

On a legal level, three different groups of religious communities can be distinguished in Austria. These are:

  • Religious communities with legal entity under private law on the basis of the general Act on Associations:
    Religious communities and can become private associations, like sports or cultural clubs. These can either refer to non-profit associations, which need at least two members and non-profit intentions, but are not considered religious by the state, or to an association with partly religious functions.

  • State-registered religious communities with legal entity under private law according to a special law on religious associations:
    State-registered communities gain juridical personality under private law. They can be legitimised as such by proving the requirements of a minimum of 300 followers living in Austria, who are not registered with any other community or recognised church. They also are legally required to disclose their statutes, including the name of the community, which has to follow a doctrine ethos. The name and doctrine cannot overlap with any other religious communities.

  • Legally recognized churches and religious communities with public-law status:
    The Law on Legal Recognition of Religious Communities (1874) subsumes the pre-conditions of religious communities gaining legal recognition by the state. Firstly, communities need to provide evidence of a majority of physical persons, a religious doctrine, church service and a constitution, the latter of which cannot contain illegal or morally offensive statutes. More regulations are documented in the Act on the Legal Status of Religious Denominational Communities (BekGG, 1998). The denominational community needs to prove its continuous existence for the past 20 years and a minimum of ten years as religious denominational community attaining legal personality. Members of the community must amount to at least two per mille of the Austrian population, measured by the latest census (see Statistik Austria for current data). The community has to be affirmative towards the state and society and there should not be any unlawful proceedings with recognised churches as well as other religious communities. Revenue and finances of the community can only be spent for religious or charitable means. As such, article 15 of the Austrian constitution guarantees each community the following rights: ''Every church and religious society recognized by the law has the right to joint public religious practice, arranges and administers its internal affairs autonomously, and retains possession and enjoyment of its institutions, endowments and funds devoted to worship, instruction and welfare, but is like every society subject to the general laws of the state''.

    The consequences of recognition are:
    • Name protection
      This means that other religious communities may not claim the same name.
    • Right to religious education
      There is a right to establish religious education in state schools. An independent curriculum can be designed independently, which does not have to be approved by the state. The costs of teachers and teaching materials are paid by the state.
    • Right to organized pastoral care
      Furthermore, organized pastoral care can be established at state and public institutions (hospitals, armed forces, prisons).
    • Right to independence and protection against federalization
      Last but not least, the state guarantees recognized religious communities the independent ordering and administration of their internal affairs, as well as protection against federalization of their institutions and foundations.

  • Six religious communities also maintain special laws with the state, which document detailed provisions of their affiliation:

    The Concordat of 1933 between the Holy See and the Austrian Republic.
    The Federal Act of 1961 on the external legal relationship of the Protestant Church in Austria.
    The Federal Act of 1967 on the external legal relationship of the Greek-Oriental Church in Austria, amended 2011.
    The Federal Act of 2003 on the external legal relationships of the Oriental-Orthodox Churches in Austria.
    The Federal Act of 1890 on the external legal relationship of the Israelite Religious Society, amended 2012.
    The Federal Act on the external legal relationships of Islamic Religious Societies of 1912, renewed 2015.

The analysis focused primarily on the involvement of legally recognized religious communities and state-registered confessional communities. These two groups comprise the following religious communities in Austria as of 10.10.2022:

  • Legally recognized churches and religious communities (in alphabetical order):
    • Alevitische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (ALEVI)
    • Altkatholische Kirche Österreichs
    • Armenisch-apostolische Kirche in Österreich
    • Evangelische Kirche A.B. u. H.B. (Augsburgischen und Helvetischen Bekenntnisses) Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche in Österreich (EmK)
    • Freikirchen in Österreich
    • Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft
    • Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (IGGÖ)
    • Jehovas Zeugen in Österreich
    • Katholische Kirche
    • Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage (Mormonen) in Österreich
    • Koptisch-orthodoxe Kirche in Österreich
    • Neuapostolische Kirche in Österreich Orthodoxe (= griechisch-orientalische) Kirche in Österreich
    • Österreichische Buddhistische Religionsgesellschaft
    • Syrisch-orthodoxe Kirche in Österreich

      Source: (retrieval date 10.10.2022)
  • State-registered religious communities (in alphabetical order):
    • Alt-Alevitische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (AAGÖ)
    • BAHÁ'Í - Religionsgemeinschaft Österreich (Bahai)
    • Die Christengemeinschaft - Bewegung für religiöse Erneuerung in Österreich (Christengemeinschaft)
    • Frei-Alevitischen Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (FAGÖ)
    • Hinduistische Religionsgesellschaft in Österreich (HRÖ)
    • Islamische-Schiitische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (Schia)
    • Kirche der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten in Österreich (Adventisten)
    • Pfingstkirche Gemeinde Gottes in Österreich (Pfk Gem.Gottes iÖ)
    • Vereinigte Pfingstkirche Österreichs (VPKÖ)
    • Vereinigungskirche in Österreich
    • Sikh Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich

      Source: (retrieval date: 10.10.2022)

Wolfram Reiss