Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Germany is a secular state, but one that assures the public practice of religion. Religious education is primarily the responsibility of the religious communities but under supervision by the state. Hence, religious education at German schools is, offered for Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Muslims, and Jews. The state is informed about the contents of teaching and ensures their conformity with the Constitution. Federal President Johannes Rau declared in 2004, “our state is neither an antireligious nor a religion-free state. On the contrary, our state protects the religious freedom of everyone.” The state is neutral but protects the public expression of religion. There are about four million Muslims in Germany, which equals approximately 5% of the population.
Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds The early generation of Muslim immigrants assumed that they would go back to their home countries after their employment contracts ended. Since this is not the case anymore, Islam has been entrenched as part of the preservation of their own identity. Muslims in Germany show characteristics that comply with the basic tendencies of the society as a whole with a slightly bigger emphasis on religious identity. The biggest societal group is surely constituted by people who resolve to confirm religious bond. This group is not an organized unit. The two largest Christian blocks, Protestants and Catholics, each as big as 30% of the population, show signs that can also be found in the group of religiously uncommitted people.
Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds Indeed, even many people who are in charge think secularly, whereas many secular people can be religious. While some Germans are hoping for the end of privileges for the churches, others are feeling anxious about this idea. And as the Muslims are pushing towards the same rights that have, so far, only been granted to churches, these Germans are strengthening the system that is currently up for discussion. What does this system look like? The result of a long historical process is the prohibition of a state church. After centuries of fights and the First World War, the churches and the state separated in Germany. After the Second World War, the precept of neutrality in matters of religion and worldview was applied.
Skip to 2 minutes and 57 seconds The decisive point is the freedom of religion. Article Four of the German Basic Law defines that everyone has a right to confess to a religion and to join a denomination. Also, everyone is free to confess to a religion and to resign from a religious association. Every person is also free to change from one denomination to another. The right of religious freedom finds its limit where the fundamental rights of others are affected. Apart from that, the legislature is not allowed to restrict the religious freedom in Germany. The relation between the state and religious associations is regulated by the federal government under the expression [SPEAKING GERMAN], Articles Four and 140 of the Basic Law.
Skip to 3 minutes and 54 seconds This emphasis said, due to historical reasons, the regulations of the Constitution are shaped by Christian churches but they are as well developed for all other religious associations and groups with a common worldview. Except for three German states, the denominations have the right to religious education, which is guaranteed by the law. This subject is principally compulsory for all members of a religious association. Pupils who are of different religious faiths or are nonbelievers, can decide whether they want to follow one of these classes on religion that is offered or not. The Ministry phrases the character of the subject in the following way.
Skip to 4 minutes and 45 seconds “The religious education as a regular discipline is [SPEAKING GERMAN], which means it should impart the values and doctrines of the respective denomination.” State and religious association develops educational content together. Religious groups are expected to follow the fundamental principles of the Basic Law, especially in the realm of church law. Today, it is disputed whether religious symbols, head scarf, crucifix, should be forbidden in schools. The result was a division of religious belief and the organization of the society. Two fundamental human rights were thereby ensured, the freedom of consciousness and the freedom of religious belief and its practice. Religion in Germany is not a private matter but has a public character. The religious groups’ contribution to the public life is explicitly asked for.
Skip to 6 minutes and 0 seconds It is one of the great accomplishments of the German model state and to religion to consciously foster the cooperation of formally hostile denominations and to, at least indirectly, put this into daily practice.
A secular German system?
Whereas the French system tries to completely separate state and religion, the German system is built on an entirely different premise. Here, the state assures public practice of religion.
For example, the state supervisors religious education of all faiths and ensures that what is taught is in accordance with the constitution. This, and other characteristics of the German system, indicates that in Germany religion is not a private matter, but has very much a ‘public character’, as Professor Martin Tamcke puts it in this video.
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