Discrimination against some religious groups remained a problem at the local levels of the federal government, as well as on the part of some states. Some state governments and federal agencies continued to decline to recognize certain belief systems as religions, making them ineligible for tax benefits, although not affecting their ability to engage in public and private religious activities.
On June 1, the state of Rhineland Palatinate became the thirteenth state (of 16) to grant PLC Status to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The states of Bremen and Baden-Wuerttemberg continued to deny PLC status to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the group’s application in NRW, filed in 2006, remained pending. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were not able to alleviate those states’ concerns over the perceived divergence of the views of Jehovah’s Witnesses from constitutional principles – for example, their opposition to blood transfusions for children despite constitutional protections for the rights of the child.
In April the state of Hesse granted PLC status to the Bahai community, following a November 2012 ruling by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. On June 7, the Arnsberg Administrative Court granted PLC status to the Hindu Temple Association based in Hamm, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW); the state government applied for approval to appeal.
In September the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled against exempting a seventh-grade student from Bocholt from viewing a screen adaptation of the book Krabat, by Ottfried Preussler, during German classes. The student’s parents, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, had argued the film depicted practices of “black magic,” which their religion did not allow. Although a lower court had ruled the request for exempting individual students from school lessons was justified, the higher court revised the ruling, emphasizing that exemption was possible only in the case of “serious impairment of religious interests.”
In October the Kassel Regional Court in Hesse rejected a family’s appeal to be allowed to home-school their children on religious grounds. The family argued mandatory school attendance exposed their children to pornographic images during sex education classes. The court upheld a lower court’s fine of 700 euros ($964) per parent for failing to send their children to school, but the family stated it planned to continue to home-school despite the ruling. The family appealed the decision with the higher Frankfurt Regional Court.
The status of the Church of Scientology remained in limbo. The Constitutional Court and various courts at the state level have not explicitly ruled Scientology is a religion.
Government agencies at the federal and state level had rules and procedures that discriminated against the COS as a group and against its members. Four of the major political parties (the Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union, Social Democratic Party, and Free Democratic Party) excluded Scientologists from party membership.
Scientologists continued to report instances of governmental discrimination. Although courts at the state and federal level condemned the improper use of “sect filters” to blacklist and boycott Scientologists, they remained in use in the public and private sectors. “Sect filters” typically asked potential new employees to give written confirmation they had no contact with Scientology, did not participate in its training courses, and rejected its doctrines.
In January the city of Hamburg stipulated potential tutors for elementary school children must sign a contract that included a “sect filter” declaring neither they nor their employees would teach according to Scientology methods. In August the city of Munich solicited bids for leading seminars on philosophy for high school students and included a similar requirement for a sect filter in the bid announcement.
The federal and state Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (OPCs) in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, NRW, and Thuringia monitored the activities of the COS, mainly focusing on evaluating Scientology publications and public activities to determine whether they violated the constitution. The COS reported OPC representatives regularly contacted Scientologists to question them about the organization. The COS also reported the OPC collected names of members from church publications and archived the information to use in citizenship and employment proceedings.
A number of Muslim groups suspected of furthering “extremist” goals remained under observation by state and federal OPCs. Examples included the Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland (Islamic Community in Germany), connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose ideology the OPCs considered “socially disintegrative.” The OPCs also suspected the 30,000-member Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Goerues ( Milli Goerues Islamic Community) of spreading Islamic doctrine rejecting democracy.
The number of Islamic religion classes in public schools continued to grow. Because education remained a state responsibility and there was no nationally recognized Islamic group to assist in developing a curriculum or providing services, the form and content of Islamic instruction varied from state to state. The Alevite community offered religious lessons in schools in seven federal states, involving roughly 12,000 students. Curricula were usually developed in cooperation with the respective state governments. NRW was the first state to offer Alevite religious lessons in secondary schools.
Although two Muslim groups signed an agreement with Lower Saxony in 2012 to facilitate religious support for Muslim prisoners, in February the NRW Justice Ministry turned down offers by imams to provide support for Muslim prisoners in that state due to concerns about possible connections to Salafist groups.
In June a district court in Bremen affirmed a lower court’s ruling that upheld a ban on headscarves in a commercial gym. A female member of the gym had sued the owners for discrimination after they had canceled her contract because she had worn a headscarf while exercising. The district court found the ban to be legal because it also banned jewelry with the intent of preventing injuries while exercising. No appeal of the decision was possible. In contrast, in an NRW employment case in November, a court underscored a female public servant’s right to wear a headscarf at work. The County of Mettmann had originally denied her employment due to breach of trust based on supposedly contradictory statements about her desire to wear a headscarf; the court found no evidence of such behavior.
On September 11, the Federal Administrative Court ruled a 13-year-old Muslim student from Hesse must participate in mandatory school swimming classes, despite her objections the swimwear violated her religious freedom. The court ruled the student had the option of wearing modest swimwear. The court denied her claim that forcing her to participate with students wearing less modest swimsuits violated her religious freedom, stating it could not dismiss social realities to protect an individual’s religious beliefs.
In July the Federal Ministry for Education announced it will provide seven million euros ($9.64 million) in funding for a Lower Saxony-based program to award scholarships to Muslim university students, the first such program for Muslim students to receive federal funding.
In September the NRW government founded the first institutional forum for dialogue with Muslim organizations with the stated intention of intensifying cooperation between the state and Muslim communities. The forum’s mandate is to address issues such as religious practices of Muslim prisoners, prevention of extremism, and anti-Islamic sentiments. The NRW Labor and Integration Minister will chair the forum which includes integration experts and representatives from national Muslim organizations.
In September the Upper Administrative Court in Muenster ruled a Catholic school in Paderborn had the right to refuse acceptance of a Muslim student after the student’s parents refused to let the student participate in religious instruction and the Mass. The student's parents maintained the school's requirement to participate was a violation of the Constitution.
Since 2012, the federal government has provided 10 million euros ($13.77 million) annually, double the previous amount, to help maintain Jewish cultural heritage. In addition, the federal government provided financial support for the Institute for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, the Rabbi Seminar at the University of Potsdam, and the Leo Baeck Institute. The states provided additional funds to Jewish organizations in various amounts. For example, in July NRW updated its agreement with state Jewish organizations, providing eight million euros ($11 million) of state funding to the Jewish community and additional security measures worth up to two million euros ($2.75 million).
In October the Central Council of Jews began training for mohels (individuals who perform ritual Jewish circumcisions) by medical professionals on how to perform male circumcisions in accordance with the provisions of the new law governing the procedure.