Around a tenth of the funds in the annual regional investments distribution scheme which accompanies the Riigikogu's processing of the annual state budget will be allocated to churches or religious associations, pending approval of applications.
Protection money (Estonian: "Katuseraha", literally "roof money" and also a translation which would carry negative connotations with it) has proved controversial down the years, in particular with the Reform Party, though it is engaging with the scheme this year.
The funds are allocated mid-way through the 2022 state budget reading process (the bill goes to its third and final reading next month, having passed its first and second) and as such greases the wheels for the process and in obtaining a majority at the 101-seat Riigikogu.
Each party has to provide the Riigikogu's finance committee with its list of proposed beneficiaries in its regional investments, which protection money is primarily aimed at, while each MP is allocated €30,000.
Eight MPs have abstained from doing so, seven of them from Reform, and a total of €2.8 million is involved for all entries in the protection money scheme.
The 2022 state budget is worth €13.13 billion (revenues) and €13.64 billion (expenditures).
Of the €2.8 million in protection funds, a little over 10 percent, €292,000, is earmarked for religious organizations, meaning primarily Lutheran and Orthodox congregations.
Four of the five parties represented at the Riigikogu – Reform, Center, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa – have made significant allocations to religious beneficiaries in this year's protection money.
These include renovation works, a major issue for many historical churches, and also operating costs, education and related uses.
Most of the beneficiaries will be the major denominations to be found in Estonia: The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK), whose head, Archbishop Urmas Viilma is a prominent figure in Estonia, the Orthodox Church of Estonia (Constantinople Patriarchate, whose liturgy is in Estonian) and the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – the Russian Orthodox Church, in other words. The Roman Catholic Church in Estonia is the beneficiary of protection money from one Isamaa MP.
The proposals have to be approved first, and the funds chaneled via the relevant ministry before they find their way to the recipients.
Reform Party doling out protection money this year, some religious organizations are beneficiaries
While the Reform Party has historically been opposed to the protection money system, with leading members in the past referring to it as a form of corruption, the party is in office now, with Center. As noted seven of its 34 MPs are not taking part in the scheme.
€50,000 is to be distributed to churches and religious societies, proposed by five Reform MPs.
Marko Torm has proposed €20,000 split equally across two congregations in the Lääne-Viru County town of Rakvere, the Rakvere Karmel and the Rakvere Kolmainu congregations.
Margit Sutrop has proposed support of €10,000 for the St. Mary's Church Foundation, for church restoration. Another Reform MP, Signe Kivi, has proposed the same amount for the same purpose. The church was badly damaged during World War Two, while the subsequent Soviet occupation was not a time when church restorations were feasible.
Annely Akkermann has proposed €10,000 for the Estonian Orthodox Church in Pärnu, to preserve its cultural values.
EKRE: Christian TV channel, church renovation and education
EKRE is providing a total of €96,000 for religious associations, cinluding a total of €15,000 proposed jointly by Helle-Moonika Helme, Leo Kunnas and Paul Puustusmaa - support the Taevas TV7 Christian TV channel, for the use of equipment upgrades.
The remainder of the money is mainly earmarked for church renovation work.
Kalle Grünthal wants €10,000 to go towards restoration of the church windows at the Anna Church in the Järva County village of the same name.
Alar Laneman has slated €10,000 for the Pärnu Eliisabeti church, for tower restoration works.
Henn Põlluaas supports the repairs, again with €10,000, for the restoration of the roof at the Nissi prayer house in southwestern Harju County.
Uno Kaskpeit wants €8,000 to go both to the restoration of the roof of the Mõniste-Ritsiku Ristija Johannese church in Võru County and for the renovation works of the Peetri-Luke Church in Valga, and €7,000 for the restoration of the windows of Hargla Church, also in Valga County.
Urmas Reitelmann has asked for €5,000 Püha Andrease Church in Sangaste, Valga County and Kert Kingo has applied for €15,000 for the Kursi Church in Jõgeva County.
In addition to the church support, Laneman has proposed €8,000 for equipment at the Pärnu Christian private school , while EKRE leader Martin Helme has submitted an application for €15,000 to go to the Old Town Education College (VHK) Christian worldview-based Miikali Ühendus education center.
Center Party allocates money for operating grants and repairs
Former education minister Mailis Reps has applied for €29,000 in support for the Püha Miikaeli Kolleegium, which has a Christian world-view also. The school owns the private Aiake garden in Tallinn's Old Town.
Some other Center Party members have applied for grants for religious buildings also.
Marko Šorin has submitted a claim for €16,000 for the renovation of the Church of the Jumalailmumise Church in Sindi, Pärnu County, and €8,000 for the renovation of the Eliisabeti Church in Pärnu city.
Riigikogu speaker and former prime minister Jüri Ratas has allocated €5,000 for the congregation of Katariina Church in Saarde, Pärnu County.
More generally, Center members have applied for operating support, for instance the €5,000 for the support of the Estonian Council of Churches which Ratas has asked for, or the €6,000 Martin Repinski wishes to grant as operating support for the Moscow Patriarchate Church of the Transfiguration, in Jõhvi, Ida-Viru County.
Similarly, Kersti Sarapuu supports both the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran (EELK) Nõmme Rahu Congregation, in Tallinn, and the Püha Martin congregation in Türi, Järva County, to the tune of €5000.
Viktor Vasiljev wishes support for the repair of an organ at the Püha Vaimu Church in Tallinn, at €5,000, plus the same amount for the operating grant of the Anglo-Catholic Church in Tallinn.
Isamaa putting up €42,000 for religions organizations
Isamaa, traditionally the party most associated with supporting religious institutions at protection money time, and at other times, is allocating €42,000 for operating grants and also Christian values-based education, in addition to renovation work.
Aivar Kokk has proposed €10,000 for the EELK Jõgeva congregation, while Andres Metsoja has earmarked the same for the Estonian Orthodox Kergu Püha Suurkannataja Sinaida congregation, in Pärnu County.
Heiki Hepner has chosen renovation of the Hageri Lambertuse (EELK) parochial house, in the Rapla County village of the same name, with €5,000.
Üllar Saaremäe has proposed €5,000 for the heating system redesign at the EELK Rakvere Kolmainu parish church (see above).
Party leader Helir-Valdor Seeder wants €5,000 in operating support to go to the Koeru Maarja-Magdaleena (EELK) congregation in Järva County, while Mihhail Lotman has proposed €6,000 for the Tartu Catholic Education Center (artu Katoliku Hariduskeskus) for the modernization of the kindergarten playground, and €5,000 for the Scandicus liturgical music association, for the compilation of a textbook of native-language church songs.
The Social Democratic Party (SDE) has not asked for the allocation of large grants to any individual association, while most of its significant entries in the protection money scheme concern secular social welfare programs.
This year's protection money sum overall, at a little under €3 million, is about half the amount of last year's.
Editor: Andrew Whyte