Austria: Catholic church fined for phone texting

VIENNA (AP) — Austria’s Roman Catholic church has learned its lesson. Mass is OK. Mass texting is not.

A diocese in the southern city of Graz says it has been found guilty of contravening Austria’s telecommunications law by sending mass texts to the cellphones of followers asking them to pay overdue membership fees.

Members of recognized religions in Austria must pay so-called “church taxes” or opt out of membership. For a Catholic, non-payment would mean no right to church sacraments.

Diocese official Hertha Ferk was quoted by the Der Standard newspaper on Tuesday as saying the diocese has agreed to pay a fine that is under 10,000 euros ($13,475).

A court took up the case after complaints from some of the 17,000 church members in arrears who received the text last year.

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