2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Germany
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor|
|Publication Date||26 October 2009|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Germany, 26 October 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ae8613e2.html [accessed 18 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
[Covers the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009]
The Basic Law (Constitution) provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion with some exceptions.
The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the reporting period. The Government made positive efforts to improve the integration of Muslims and other minorities into society, investigated and prosecuted criminal behavior by extremists directed at religious groups, and promoted tolerance education. Nonetheless, there continue to be concerns about societal and governmental (federal and state) treatment of certain religious minorities, notably Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Muslims.
In addition, there were problems with societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Right-wing extremists committed politically motivated crimes against minorities including religious groups, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic acts. Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. Muslim communities sometimes suffered societal discrimination when building new mosques and seeking allotments of land for cemeteries; however, many members of Government and civil society initiated discussions about Muslim integration and expressed their commitment to addressing the issue. The Roman Catholic and Evangelical Churches continued to use "sect commissioners" to warn the public of dangers from some minority religious groups such as the Unification Church, Scientologists, Universal Life (Universelles Leben), and Transcendental Meditation practitioners. Scientologists continue to find "sect filters" used against them in employment as well as discrimination in political party membership.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. Government placed particular emphasis on support for direct dialogue between representatives of minority religious groups and relevant government officials. The U.S. Embassy in Berlin engaged actively with the Muslim communities, including through public outreach, exchange, and other programs that promote religious tolerance, diversity, and greater understanding between faiths.
Section I. Religious Demography
The country has an area of 137,847 square miles and a population of 82.3 million. There are no official statistics on religious groups; however, unofficial estimates and figures provided by religious organizations give an approximate breakdown of the membership of the country's denominations. The data below are compiled from a variety of sources.
The Roman Catholic Church has a membership of 25.5 million. The Evangelical Church, a confederation of the Lutheran, Uniate, and Reformed Protestant Churches, has 24.8 million members. Together, these two Churches account for nearly two-thirds of the population.
Protestant Christian denominations include: the New Apostolic Church, 366,979; Ethnic German Baptists from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), 75,000-100,000; and Baptist, 84,096. Muslims number approximately 4.3 million, including 2.6 million Sunnis, 400,000 Alevis, and 225,500 Shi'a. There are no official figures on the number of religious conversions. The "Zentralinstitut Islamarchiv Deutschland" (the Central Institute of the Islamic Archives in Germany) estimates that until 2004 the annual number of conversions to Islam was 300, largely female Christian native citizens marrying Muslim men; however, since 2004 the annual number of conversions has increased into the thousands. There are approximately 2,600 Islamic places of worship, including an estimated 150 traditional architecture mosques, with 100 more planned. Approximately 45 percent of Muslim immigrants have adopted the country's citizenship. Orthodox Christians number 1.4 million, including 450,000 Greek Orthodox/Constantinople Patriarchate; 250,000 Serbian Orthodox; 300,000 Romanian Orthodox; and 150,000 Russian Orthodox/Moscow Patriarchate. Buddhists number 245,000 and Hindus 97,500. Jehovah's Witnesses recorded 166,000 active missionary members and approximately 40,000 nonactive members. The Church of Scientology operates 18 churches and missions, and according to press reports, has 30,000 members. However, according to the Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC) in Brandenburg and Hamburg, the Church of Scientology has 5,000-7,000 members.
According to estimates, Jews number more than 200,000, of which 106,435 are registered members of the Jewish community. Of these registered community members, 101,829 are immigrants and 4,606 are originally from the country. From 1990 to 2008, approximately 102,000 Jews and non-Jewish dependents from the countries of the FSU arrived, joining 25,000 to 30,000 Jews already in the country. As a result of a more restrictive immigration policy regarding Jews from the FSU, the number of Jewish immigrants decreased to 862 in 2008 from 1,296 in 2007 and 1,971 in 2006. The new policy was designed in cooperation with Jewish organizations in order to better manage the integration of individuals into the Jewish community.
An estimated 21 million persons (one-quarter of the population) either have no religious affiliation or are members of unrecorded religious organizations.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
The Basic Law (Constitution) provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion with some exceptions. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors; however, discrimination against and unequal treatment of some minority religious groups remained a problem at the local level, in part because of the legal/constitutional structure of church-state relations. The structure for managing church-state relations, established in 1949, has been gradually adapting to the country's increasingly diverse religious composition.
Religious organizations are not required to register with the state, and groups may organize themselves for private religious purposes without constraint. Religious organizations must register in order to qualify as nonprofit associations with tax-exempt status. State-level authorities review registration submissions and routinely grant tax-exempt status. Their decisions are subject to judicial review. Organizations that apply for tax-exempt status must provide evidence, through their own statutes, history, and activities, that they are a religion. Local tax offices occasionally conduct reviews of tax-exempt status.
Religion and state are separate, although a special partnership exists between the state and those religious communities that have the status of a "corporation under public law." Any religious organization may request that it be granted "public law corporation" (PLC) status, which, among other things, entitles it to name prison, hospital, and military chaplains and to levy a tithe (averaging 9 percent of income tax) on its members that the state collects. PLCs pay a fee to the Government for this tax service; however, not all avail themselves of it. The decision to grant PLC status is made at the state level based on certain requirements, including an assurance of permanence, the size of the organization, and an indication that the organization is not hostile to the constitutional order or fundamental rights. An estimated 180 religious groups have been granted PLC status, including the Evangelical and Catholic Churches, the Jewish community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites, Baptists, Methodists, Christian Scientists, and the Salvation Army. In June 2006, after a 10-year legal effort by the Jehovah's Witnesses organization, the State of Berlin granted the organization PLC status. Since then, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower-Saxony, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, and Thuringia have extended PLC status to state branches of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
On May 12, 2009, Baden-Wuerttemberg's State Ministry of Culture also proposed granting PLC status to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Approval was expected on July 28, 2009; however, the governing parties reportedly raised concerns and were now considering whether to task the OPC to investigate the Jehovah's Witnesses for lacking loyalty to the country's legal order.
Muslim communities remained an exception. In principle, the federal Government is in favor of the states' granting public law corporation status to Muslim communities but has indicated a desire that Muslims agree upon a single organization with which the states and the federal Government can negotiate. On April 9, 2007, the four largest Muslim religious organizations formed the "Muslim Coordination Council" (KRM), which claims to represent Muslims in the country. Whether and when this group would meet legal requirements for registration as a PLC was unclear and was to be decided on the state level; however, some observers, including the Federal Interior Minister, were on record that the Muslim Coordination Council represented only those who were traditionally observant, or approximately 10 to 15 percent of the total Muslim population.
Achieving PLC status has potential implications for Muslims in the country who wish a traditional Islamic burial, which consists of burial in a shroud facing Mecca, in a cemetery permanently dedicated only to Islamic burial. These conditions conflict with some states' laws or customs, which require a coffin be buried in a cemetery in a rented plot, which will be turned over every 30 or 60 years. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia changed its burial law in 2003 to authorize local communities to allow shroud burials. The Baden-Wuerttemberg state parliament amended a law on March 16, 2009, to allow corpses to be buried in an open coffin, but stopped short of allowing shroud burial. Eleven of the 16 federal states currently allow burial without a coffin. Few Islamic cemeteries existed nationally. There were cemeteries, however, such as in Frankfurt, which had sections reserved for Muslim burials. Similar arrangements existed in Berlin.
The Government has also developed a policy framework to promote integration of the Muslim community, including the Interior Ministry's Islam Conference and the Chancellery's Integration Summit. The Interior Ministry held its fourth plenary of the Islam Conference on June 25, 2009, the last session before national elections on September 27.
On November 6, 2008, the Chancellery's parallel Integration Summit met. These conferences are multiyear efforts that address key areas of debate such as the legal status of Islam and issues related to social and religious practice, particularly in Muslim communities, including headscarves and schoolgirls' participation in athletic activities. Both measures attempt to bring together representatives from the wide spectrum of the Muslim community, from the very traditional to the nearly secular.
The Islam Conference can claim the increased public attention to Muslim integration as a major success. Although consensus among the Conference's diverse participants on various issues could not be reached at the Conference's conclusion, participants remained committed to the process and expected long-term progress. Working groups of both the Islam Conference and the Integration Summit met frequently during the reporting period. The Interior Ministry published a 32-page document of recommendations and findings of the Islam Conference's working groups, among them guidelines for schools regarding the wearing of headscarves, and students', particularly girls', participation in sports lessons; recommendations on Islamic religious instruction in public schools; a call for broader and unbiased media coverage of Muslim life in Germany; more transparency in cooperation between Muslim organizations and governmental authorities; and greater sensitivity and awareness regarding extremist views within Muslim communities.
By the end of the reporting period, eight states had enacted laws banning female Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves at work, after the Federal Constitutional Court cleared the way in 2003 for the state legislation. New legislation generally used language that could be applied to wearing any symbol that could be interpreted as rejecting constitutional values or supporting oppression. Courts upheld headscarf bans in several cases. The Federal Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that banning of headscarves is within state legislative jurisdiction, and subsequently Baden-Wuerttemburg, Bavaria, Bremen, Lower Saxony, North-Rhine Westphalia, and Saarland passed headscarf bans for teachers at public schools, while Berlin and Hesse passed laws to ban headscarves for all civil servants.
On February 26, 2009, the Rhineland-Palatinate Christian Democratic Union (CDU) submitted an initiative to introduce a headscarf law in the state's public schools that was rejected by the governing Social Democratic Party (SPD).
In North-Rhine Westphalia, the law was challenged. However, on December 10, 2007, the Hesse State Constitutional Court upheld the state's headscarf ban. The Hesse ban as applied allows state institutions to prevent civil servants, including public school teachers, from wearing headscarves, while making exceptions for Christian religious symbols or clothing.
On June 26, 2008, the Federal Administrative Court ruled that the state of Bremen's ban on the wearing of headscarves disproportionately limits the basic right to freedom of profession. The court argued that due to the headscarf ban, a teacher trainee plaintiff was unable to complete her teacher education by performing her student-teaching requirement.
In July 2007 a Hesse state court ruled that a legal intern was not allowed to wear a headscarf in court if she is publicly recognized as a representative of the judiciary.
On April 10, 2008, in a first confirmation of the NRW headscarf ban by an appellate court, the Higher Labor Court in Duesseldorf upheld a lower court ruling from June 5, 2007, which ruled that a female Muslim teacher at a NRW public school is not allowed to wear a beret covering her hair and ears while teaching. The court ruled that in her case such a beret is considered a "surrogate" Islamic headscarf.
Paragraph 166 of the criminal code addresses the insulting of faiths, religious societies, and ideological groups. An incitement intended to disturb the public order, is punishable with up to three years in prison and a fine. Prosecution has not resulted in significant numbers of convictions.
The Government subsidizes some religious organizations for historical and cultural reasons. In view of the country's culpability for the Holocaust, the states have accepted as a permanent duty the obligation to provide financial support to the Jewish community, including support for reconstruction of old and construction of new synagogues. On November 23, 2008, a cornerstone for a new synagogue in Mainz was laid with support from city and state officials. The Government financed the repair and restoration of some Christian churches and monasteries that the state expropriated in 1803. Newer churches and mosques do not generally receive subsidies for maintenance or construction. State governments also subsidize various institutions affiliated with public law corporations, such as religious schools and hospitals, which provide public services.
The 2003 "State Agreement on Cooperation" between the Federal Government and the Central Council of Jews supplements the funding received by the Jewish community from the states. Approximately $4.65 million (€3.1 million) is provided annually to the Central Council to maintain the Jewish cultural heritage, restore the Jewish community, and support integration and social work. On September 24, 2008, the Government decided to increase annual funding for the Jewish Community to $6.97 million (€5 million). The Central Council reports annually to the Government on the use of the funds. The agreement emphasizes that the Central Council of Jews supports all branches of Judaism with the funds provided. On June 18, 2009, three (reform) rabbis were ordained at the "Abraham Geiger Kolleg" in Potsdam, together with the first Jewish cantor trained in Germany since WWII. On June 2, 2009, the first two orthodox rabbis trained in the country since 1945 were ordained at the Ohel Jakob Synagogue in Munich. They were trained at the rabbi seminar in Berlin, founded in 2005, which is the first institution for training Orthodox Jews in Europe since WWII.
The Government maintains a stated position of neutrality in religious matters since it has no official faith or state church. It does not declare religious holidays as national holidays. Individual states determine which religious holidays are observed, and these vary from state to state.
Most public schools offer Protestant and Catholic religious instruction in cooperation with those churches, as well as instruction in Judaism if enough students express interest. The number of Islamic religion classes in public schools continued to grow. In principle, participants of the federal government-sponsored Islam Conference agreed that Islamic education should be made widely available. Education is a state responsibility; and in part because no nationally recognized Islamic organization exists that could assist in developing a curriculum or providing services, the form and content of Islamic instruction vary from state to state. Organizations providing Islamic instruction do not have PLC status.
All states offer religious instruction as well as ethics courses. In most states, students who do not wish to participate in religious instruction can substitute ethics courses. In Berlin and Brandenburg, the ethics course is compulsory, while the course on religion is voluntary. In an April 26, 2009, referendum, Berlin voters rejected a legislative proposal that would have allowed Berlin public school students to take classes in religion instead of mandatory ethics classes. Religion and ethics courses are treated equally in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, meaning a student can choose either one.
There are an estimated 750,000 to 900,000 Muslim students in the public school system. Islamic classes in public schools continued to be a controversial topic but were increasingly common throughout the country, except in areas where the Muslim population was too small to support them. Although no Muslim group had PLC status that would entitle them to offer Islamic courses, state governments recognized the need and demand and worked with local Muslim organizations to establish such courses. In Hesse, the state government reached out to local Muslim groups to identify appropriate partnerships to assist in establishing Islam religious instruction in public schools. Since summer 2008, North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) has introduced regular religion classes for Allevites at seven schools. In March 2009 the Bavarian state government decided to start a 5-year pilot project on Islam courses. German-speaking classes will be offered optionally in all Bavarian schools and cover intercultural and interreligious issues. The state was recruiting teachers.
At the start of the 2006-07 school year, authorities in Baden-Wuerttemberg established a two-course system: one for Sunni and Shi'a students and another for Alevis. State officials and Muslim groups in Baden-Wuerttemberg agreed upon the system and the initial reactions were positive, but as of April 2009 only 10 of the state's nearly 4,700 public schools offered such courses. Some states offered similar programs, while others were working with Muslim leaders to establish a uniform curriculum. Later in the year, universities in Frankfurt, Ludwigsburg, Karlsruhe, and Weingarten began offering training courses in the teaching of Islam.
In February 2009 the first German-speaking private school for imam training opened in Berlin-Karlshorst. Over a six-year training period, young Muslims were scheduled to be educated to be prayer leaders for Muslim communities. The school is financed by private donations.
On April 23, 2009, Lower Saxony Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann announced plans to institute training for imams in the state. The project is twofold. It includes a one-year intensive course, including civic education, German language, and a dialogue with the Christian churches, which primarily is directed at Turkish-Islamic Union of the Agency for Religious Affairs (DITIB) mosques. (Currently, DITIB imams provided by the Turkish government stay in the country for two to three years and rarely speak the country's language or possess any knowledge of the country's culture and society, a situation that is viewed as undermining integration efforts.) Second, the training includes a two-year studies program leading to a bachelor's degree. The project resonated positively with the Turkish Attaché for Religion and is supported by the Lower Saxony Ministries of Education and Research. Of the 2,600 mosques in the country, 233 are located in Lower Saxony.
At the University of Muenster in NRW, the holder of the country's first chair for training secondary school teachers in Islamic religious instruction made headlines in September 2008 when the KRM announced that it would cease cooperation with him due to "serious discrepancies between the principles of Islamic doctrine and [the professor's] published opinions," adding that it could "no longer recommend that Muslim students enroll in courses with him." After receiving threats by Muslim extremists who resented his call for "modern, historically critical methods in Islamic theology," the professor, a convert to Islam, was placed under police protection in April 2009. His institute was moved to an undisclosed location, and students were asked to observe strict secrecy as to the course location. In a related development, a second chair of Islamic studies (for the training of Muslim religion teachers) was established at Muenster University, which was to be filled in summer 2009. A political controversy within the NRW government coalition developed over the issue of whether or not the KRM should have a say in filling that position at the university.
In March 2009 an adult education center in Offenbach, Hesse, began offering integration classes for imams. The courses are financed by the local authorities.
The legal requirement that children attend school, confirmed by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice in 2006, continued to be a problem for some home-schooling advocates for religious reasons, due to concerns about sex education and the teaching of evolution.
On October 14, 2008, the Stuttgart Administrative Court ruled that a group of Baptists in the Hohenlohe County were allowed to run their own private school, which had been established illegally in 2005. However, the Stuttgart Court required that this private school must match similar criteria met by public schools, including teaching evolutionary theory and providing adequate education for the school's teachers.
On December 20, 2008, an American family that home schooled its children was forced to leave the country because they were denied residency permits. The Robinson family arrived in the country in March 2007 with their three school-age children and were denied residency permits when the couple indicated that they planned to home school their children. They lost their appeal in the Ansbach Administrative Court on January 25, 2008, and have since returned to the United States.
The Bachmans, a Baptist family residing in the country since 1989, has 13 children and decided to home school them. They have consequently had problems with the local public school system and have reported harassment by local authorities. Legal proceedings ended with no solution. In 2008 the Bachmans were unable to obtain a visa extension for their 15-year-old daughter who was born in the country. The authorities later issued the extension.
In December 2008 the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt granted an appeal filed by the Dudek family of Herleshausen, northern Hesse, in August and remanded the case to the original court. The case was pending and stems from the June 2008 Kassel regional court sentencing of the Dudek parents, to three-months' imprisonment for refusing to send their six school-age children to school. The parents insisted on instructing their children at home, arguing that state schools would contradict their Christian teachings.
In August 2008 a family belonging to an independent Protestant religious group from Bissingen an der Teck in Baden-Wuerttemburg left the country after losing a two-year battle to gain state approval to home school their children. The family filed for political asylum in the United States.
There were no new developments in the Ministry of Defense efforts to develop a Muslim chaplaincy within the military. The efforts had failed because of an inability to reach agreement on a plan with multiple Muslim groups. Independently, the Ministry developed a code of conduct to facilitate the practice of Islam by an estimated 3,000 Muslim soldiers, which remained in effect.
The General Act on Equal Treatment prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnic origin, or race but also prohibits discrimination based on religion, disability, age, and sexual identity. In 2002 the Federal Constitutional Court defined the Government's "warning" function with respect to nontraditional religions, ruling that the Government could characterize nontraditional religions as "sects," "youth religions," and "youth sects," and is allowed to provide accurate information about them to the public; however, the Government may not defame these religious groups by using terms such as "destructive," "pseudo-religious," or "manipulative."
Over the last decade, the Church of Scientology has filed legal challenges against many public and private practices used to discriminate against Scientologists in public and private life. These have included suits against the monitoring of the Church by state OPC offices against the use in hiring practices of the so-called "sect-filter," and against workplace discrimination. The Courts rendered final, binding decisions on two key issues: the religious bona fides of Scientology and the improper use of so-called "sect filters" to blacklist and boycott Scientologists in the public and private sector.
Since 2005 applicants for citizenship in Bavaria have been required to fill out a questionnaire regarding their affiliation with organizations under observation by the state OPC, including Scientology.
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
The Federal Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the reporting period. Some state governments and federal agencies did not recognize certain belief systems, including Scientology, as religions; however, the absence of recognition did not prevent their adherents from engaging in public and private religious activities.
In November 2008 the Federal Conference of Interior Ministers, meeting in Berlin, decided against pursuing a ban of the Church of Scientology based on findings of the state and federal OPCs that not enough evidence existed to meet legal requirements for such a ban. In December 2007 the country's state interior ministers unanimously agreed that the Church of Scientology posed a threat to the country's constitutional order and tasked state and federal OPCs to gather information on Scientology to justify a ban.
In recent years, several state OPCs have opted to stop their surveillance of Scientology, but the federal and some state OPCs in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, and Lower Saxony, continued their surveillance. On February 12, 2008, the higher Administrative Court in Muenster rejected the Church of Scientology's appeal of a 2004 Cologne court-ruling, stating that OPC surveillance was justified and could continue. The appellate court in Muenster found that there were "concrete indications" that Scientology intended to establish a social order contrary to constitutional principles such as human dignity and equality before the law. The court ruled that this decision justified the continued surveillance of Scientology by the OPC, including surveillance via intelligence means. Scientology originally appealed this decision but abandoned its appeal on April 28, 2008. The decision of the Muenster court thus became final and cannot be appealed. Scientology is mentioned in the OPC reports of eight federal states: Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Saxony, and Thuringia.
Federal and some state authorities continued to classify Scientology as a potential threat to democratic order, resulting in discrimination against Scientologists in both the public and private sectors. Several states publish pamphlets about Scientology (and other religious groups) that detail the Church's ideology and practices. States defend the practice by noting their responsibility to respond to citizens' requests for information about Scientology as well as other subjects. The pamphlets warn of the dangers the Church poses to democracy, the legal system, and human rights.
In response to concerns about Scientology's ideology and practices, government agencies at the federal and state level and private sector entities established rules or procedures that discriminate against Scientology as an organization and/or against individual members of the Church.
Scientologists continued to report instances of societal and governmental discrimination.
At the end of the reporting period, the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg was considering an earlier ruling of the Berlin Administrative Court of February 27, 2009, which ordered the immediate removal of two anti-Scientology posters. The posters were placed by the Charlottenburg District Office of the Berlin City Administration in front of the Church of Scientology of Berlin on January 22, 2009, and detailed a large "STOP" sign followed by a "warning" from the Charlottenburg District Assembly about the activities of Scientology in the area. In reaching its conclusions, the lower court held that the City of Berlin had violated its duty of religious neutrality and its obligation to remain objective on religious matters. The Court also ruled that the City's warning campaign served no justifiable purpose. The Higher Court affirmed the rights of Scientologists and the Church of Scientology Berlin to freedom of religion under Article 4 of the Constitution.
In December 2008 a contract for pianist and Scientologist Cyprien Katsaris to perform at the arts festival "European Weeks" in the city hall of the city of Passau in Bavaria in June 2009 was cancelled. The private organizer of the event was "tipped off" by the Bavarian OPC that Katsaris was a Scientologist. The Bavarian OPC recommended that Katsaris be forced to sign a "sect filter." After Katsaris refused to sign the sect filter, the contract for his performance was cancelled.
On September 4, 2008, the head of the Hamburg Interior Ministry's Working Group on Scientology (AGS), Ursula Caberta, hosted a seminar entitled "That is Scientology! Reports from the U.S.A." The audience of 130 was mainly comprised of representatives from ministries throughout the country as well as a sizeable group of masked anti-Scientology activists from the group Anonymous. A small group of Scientologists demonstrated in front of the building against the event but were denied entry despite attempting to register prior to the public event.
On December 22, 2008, the Bavarian Administrative Court confirmed the February 26, 2008 city of Munich decision to revoke the permit for a kindergarten operated by Scientologists. The Administrative Court argued that it could not exclude the possibility of damage to the children due to Scientology's educational measures. The city had based its decision on the OPC view that children were being indoctrinated in Scientology. The Bavarian State Youth Office also found that the well-being of the children was at risk due to the school's educational methods.
A large number of Muslim organizations, including some that profess to be engaged in specifically and solely peaceful religious, social, and/or cultural activities were under observation by state and federal OPCs.
On September 1, 2008, the Federal Interior Ministry introduced a nationwide naturalization test. The Central Council of Muslims welcomed it, since it ended earlier state attempts to include questions on morals and social values, which had been seen as discriminating against Muslims. According to the census bureau, the number of immigrants naturalized in 2008 dropped to 94,500, about 18,600 (16%) fewer than in 2007, when 113,000 people became citizens. This was the lowest outcome since the country's reunification.
Muslim teachers wearing headscarves continued to be a concern, as several states ban public school teachers from wearing headscarves.
In January 2009 state school administrators in Rhineland-Palatinate, where headscarves for civil servants are not banned, rescinded a job offer to a Muslim schoolteacher in Worms after learning she would wear her headscarf while teaching.
In January 2009 the Federal Court in Leipzig rejected the appeal of a March 2008 ruling by the Baden-Wuerttemburg Higher Administrative Court in Mannheim that a Muslim elementary-school teacher in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt must remove her headscarf during class. She was considering taking her case to the Federal Constitutional Court.
The headscarf ban case of Maryam Brigitte Weiss, the First Deputy Chairperson of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, was pending with the Higher Administrative Court in Muenster at the end of the reporting period. In August 2007 the Düsseldorf Administrative Court dismissed a petition by Weiss against the headscarf ban in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
There also remained areas where the law and Islamic practices conflicted with one another, such as the call to prayer, Islamic ritual slaughtering, and the segregation of older boys and girls during sports classes.
In May 2009 the Higher Administrative Court of Münster ruled in an expedited proceeding that a Muslim couple is not entitled to request dispensation from swim classes for their daughter. The court determined that it is reasonable that a girl of school age wear adequate clothing to reconcile the conflict of belief without gender separation.
In August 2008 the local administration of the Lahn-Dill district limited a Muslim butcher to the kosher butchering of 700 animals, down from 3,500. The butcher suspected that authorities were trying to prevent Islamic ritual slaughtering.
There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.
Forced Religious Conversion
There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States or who had not been allowed to be returned to the United States.
Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom
Chancellor Merkel accompanied U.S. President Barack Obama to the former concentration camp at Buchenwald during the President's June 5, 2009, visit. During the two-hour walking tour of Buchenwald, both commemorated the victims of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime. The event attracted broad media attention, with the country's four major TV channels (ARD, ZDF, N-TV, MDR) broadcasting the event live from Buchenwald.
On May 12, 2009, Chancellor Merkel officially welcomed a group of 16 newly naturalized immigrants in a ceremony at the Federal Chancellery, the first time in the history of the Federal Republic that a Chancellor had hosted such an event.
The Government promoted tolerance by establishing dialogues with representatives of immigrant and Muslim groups on the integration of minorities and immigrants and on Islamic matters at the Chancellor and Interior Minister levels. On July 12, 2007, the Government adopted the National Integration Plan, in which state and local authorities, representatives of minority groups, and the Government adopted measures and voluntary commitments relating to integration. The Government released a progress report on November 6, 2008, which was met with praise and criticism. The Federal Interior Ministry held its fourth and final plenary of the Islam Conference on June 25, 2009, which was generally praised by Muslim participants for promoting dialogue between the Government and the Muslim communities (see Section II). The Chancellery held a breakfast for the Conference participants at which Chancellor Merkel highlighted the importance of the Conference's work.
The Lower Saxony Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC) has a touring exhibition on integration entitled "Muslims in Lower Saxony: Problems and Perspectives of Integration." It can be requested by municipalities and institutions in Lower Saxony and will be displayed at multiple destinations throughout the state through 2010.
On September 22, 2008, Baden-Wuerttemburg became the first state government in the country to host an Iftar. State Secretary and Chancery Head Hubert Wicker hosted the event, which the Religious Affairs Department (Kirchenbeauftragte) organized. Twenty German-Turkish community leaders, law enforcement officials, and a representative from the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt attended the event.
Hesse sponsors and is home to several interreligious federations, including the Intercultural Council (Interkultureller Rat), which promotes dialogue between native and nonnative residents, and the multifaith Religious Council, which seeks to improve sensitivity to religious needs, such as in hospitals. The city of Offenbach, Hesse, is also sponsoring orientation classes in the country's language for local imams, who want to better integrate into society and help local Muslims to do the same.
The Government monitored right-wing extremists, conducted investigations into anti-Semitic crimes, and at times banned extremist groups deemed a threat to public order. On March 31, 2009, the Federal Interior Ministry banned the rightist extremist youth association "Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend." Within the framework of apolitical leisure events, the association was spreading racist and national socialist ideas among children and adolescents. Authorities sought to address right-wing extremism by conducting a variety of education programs to promote tolerance, many focusing on anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
On October 12, 2008, the Federal Interior Ministry banned Al Manar TV, a television station located in Beirut that also broadcasts in the country. Al Manar is considered similar to Hezbollah and was banned due to its distribution of anti-Semitic propaganda.
Authorities strongly condemned all anti-Semitic acts and devoted significant resources to investigating incidents and prosecuting perpetrators. The state also provided 24-hour police protection at synagogues and many other Jewish institutions.
On November 4, 2008, the Bundestag passed a resolution addressing anti-Semitism in which it called upon the Government to create an experts group to coordinate government activities to combat anti-Semitism and provide routine reports and an action plan to address the issue. The NGOs called for the swift implementation of the resolution expressing their concern that if the experts group is not created prior to the September 27 national elections, it may never happen and practical measures would be long delayed. Responding to the criticism, a Federal Interior Ministry spokesperson argued that the working group could be established during the current legislature period.
Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, and practice.
In 2008 the federal OPC recorded 19,894 right-wing "politically motivated crimes" (PMCs) with extremist background (increase of 15.8 percent compared to 2007), which included 1,042 violent crimes (increase of 6.3 percent compared to 2007). The Federal Criminal Investigation Office (BKA) defines PMCs as offenses related to the victims' ideology, nationality, ethnicity, race, skin color, religion, worldview, ancestry, sexual orientation, disability status, parents, or social status. The 2008 OPC report included 3,124 left-wing PMCs, 1,312 PMCs by foreigners, and 275 other types of PMCs. The report listed 156 right-wing extremist organizations and groups (180 in 2007). Authorities estimated membership in these groups, plus right-wing extremists who remained unorganized, to be approximately 30,000.
A degree of anti-Semitism based on religious doctrines and historic anti-Jewish prejudice continued to exist. Far-right political organizations claimed that Jews were the cause of modern social and economic trends, such as globalization, which some of the country's citizens find disorienting or dangerous. While most anti-Semitic acts were attributed to neo-Nazi or other right-wing extremist groups or persons, recent anti-Semitic incidents indicated that Muslim youths were increasingly involved in attacks on and harassment of Jews.
Preliminary reporting from the first quarter of 2009 by the Interior Ministry indicated that there were a total of 315 anti-Semitic offenses.
According to the 2008 OPC report, the total number of registered anti-Semitic crimes dropped from 1,541 in 2007 to 1,477 in 2008 (a 4.2 percent decrease). Among these, the number of violent crimes dropped from 59 to 44. Federal authorities generally responded to combat anti-Semitic offenses. According to preliminary figures provided by the Federal Interior Ministry to the federal parliament, authorities identified 621 suspects and made eight arrests in 2008, compared to 504 suspects and 26 arrests in 2007. There were 36 injuries in 2008, an increase of 13 from the previous year.
On January 13, 2009, a Palestinian used an iron bar to attack a police officer guarding a synagogue in Berlin, saying he wanted to protest Israel's action in Gaza. The policeman had to be hospitalized; a colleague was slightly injured. The suspect was arrested.
On March 23, 2009, anti-Semitic graffiti were found on houses and walls in Magdeburg.
On March 7, 2009, during a soccer game between Sportverein (SV) Schott Jena and Fussballsportverein (FSV) Wacker 90 Nordhausen, Nordhausen fans made "Jew-Jena"-calls. They spit at players and showed the Nazi salute.
In March 2009 a large swastika and another symbol, used by the Schutzstaffel (SS), a special unit of the Nazi era, were discovered on the wall of a lecture auditorium at a college in Berlin. Smaller symbols associated with the Nazi regime were found on a table.
On February 25, 2009, unknown persons in the city of Bergen set a swastika on fire and placed it on a church wall. The city of Bergen is in the north of the former concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.
On February 19, 2009, two persons were apprehended while painting right-wing extremist slogans on a memorial for deported victims of the Nazi regime in Erfurt.
On January 10, 2009, rooms of the state patent office in Ilmenau were vandalized and painted with anti-Semitic slogans. The office chief is also the vice chairperson of the Jewish state community of Thuringia.
On December 26, 2008, a Jewish student in Pforzheim was harassed by classmates who shouted anti-Semitic slogans in front of his home and urinated on his front door. The Jewish student, who had been harassed by the group for many weeks, later left school. The Pforzheim prosecutor's office was investigating the incident, and two students who participated were expelled from school.
On December 14, 2008, a person insulted a man with anti-Semitic remarks and physically injured him seriously. Police arrested the suspect.
On November 9, 2008, representatives of the Jewish Community in Villingen-Schwenningen and the Schwarzwald-Baar County decided not to participate in Kristallnacht commemorations after receiving threatening letters. The letters featured calls to ban all Jewish organizations in the country, and one contained a swastika.
On November 2, 2009, two men harassed a Berlin orthodox Rabbi (Director of Chabad Lubavitch) and an accompanying group of eight rabbinical students from the United States and England. The rabbi and his group were driving in their van on a main street in Berlin-Charlottenburg when another car with two young men drove up closely, chased the van, and forced the van to brake sharply numerous times. While doing this, the two car occupants shouted offensive and threatening anti-Semitic slogans. According to police reports, two suspects confessed to committing the attack. After the police had identified one suspect, his younger companion turned himself in. Both offenders were from families with immigrant background (one from Lebanon).
On October 13, 2008, at a church in Kamenz, Saxony, unknown persons removed and stole a commemorative plaque for chaplain Bernhard Wensch, who died in the Dachau concentration camp.
The most widespread anti-Semitic acts were the desecration of Jewish cemeteries or other monuments with graffiti that included the use of swastikas. In 2008 there were 53 cases of desecration of Jewish cemeteries.
On March 23, 2009, vandals desecrated the Jewish community cemetery in Meiningen, knocking over gravestones and damaging the fencing.
On January 25, 2009, 11 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery in the Eastern Town of Schwedt Oder (Brandenburg) were overturned.
On November 17, 2008, the entrance of a Jewish cemetery in Gotha was desecrated when an unknown perpetrator stuck a bloody pig's head into a Star of David in the middle of the gate. Next to the head, the unknown offenders also placed a white piece of cloth with an inscription in red denying the killing of Jews during the Holocaust. In addition, a red liquid was spilled over the gate of the cemetery.
On July 28, 2008, unknown persons defiled several graves and knocked over 13 gravestones in Cottbus.
Previously unreported and outside the reporting period, on June 26, 2008, unknown persons painted a swastika on the walls of a Jewish cemetery in Magdeburg. Also in June 2008 and previously unreported, the Jewish cemetery in Hachenburg, Rhineland-Palatinate was desecrated. Eight tombstones were destroyed.
On March 11, 2009, the Potsdam District Court sentenced neo-Nazi Horst Mahler to five years and two months of imprisonment for incitement to hatred. On February 24, 2009, a Munich court had already convicted Mahler to six years of imprisonment for continued denial of the Holocaust.
On February 13, 2009, approximately 6,000 neo-Nazis attended a "funeral march" in Dresden on the occasion of the city's air raid in 1945. It was the biggest rally in the country's post-war history and took place under the protest of up to 1,200 counter-demonstrators. After the rallies, counter-demonstrators were attacked by Neo-Nazis at a rest area along a nearby highway.
The rise of a substantial Muslim minority at times continued to lead to social conflict with religious, ethnic, and cultural overtones. Commonly, this included local resistance to mosque construction, leasing land for Muslim cemeteries, or disagreements over whether Muslims may use loudspeakers in residential neighborhoods to call believers to prayer. Authorities argued that many disputes also appeared to be related to compliance with construction and zoning laws; private groups (with some Interior Ministry financing) sought to better educate Muslim groups about these laws. Muslim groups, however, argued that such rules were often abused or that local opposition was motivated by anti-Muslim bias. Noise and traffic levels as well as security concerns were also factors in neighborhood disputes.
On February 13, 2009, the Hamburg District Court found German-Afghan Ahmad-Sobair Obeidi guilty of murdering his sister Morsal and sentenced him to life imprisonment (15 years). Obeidi stabbed his sister 23 times on May 15, 2008, out of anger over her "western" lifestyle. During the trial, the defendant stated that in his view, his sister turned away from her family, dressed inappropriately in public, and worked as a prostitute.
At the end of the reporting period, controversy over the construction of a new mosque in Cologne, in NRW, continued to receive national and international attention. The proposed new mosque, in addition to being the country's largest, would also house the national headquarters of the DITIB, the country's biggest Muslim umbrella organization with close ties to (and controlled by) the Turkish government agency for religious affairs in Ankara, Diyanet. Cologne's City Council voted in August 2008 to approve construction.
On May 9, 2009, the right-wing-populist civil movement "Pro Köln" held an "Anti-Islam-Congress," which took place against massive opposition of counter-demonstrators, political parties, churches, labor unions and other associations. Courts upheld a police ordinance denying "Pro Köln's" request to demonstrate in front of the Cologne Cathedral or at the site of the future DITIB mosque, offering instead a site across the Rhine. The police prevented clashes by ensuring strict geographic separation between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators.
On April 22, 2009, the city of Munich approved the construction of a mosque in Sendling, but its completion in the planned form appeared unlikely due to financial difficulties and matters internal to the planning body, DITIM. Local opposition had delayed plans to build a new mosque in Sendling, even though the mayor and the Catholic Church across the street from the building site supported its construction. On February 13, 2007, the Bavarian Administrative Court upheld the decision by the Government of Upper Bavaria, pending modifications to the design of the mosque. In 2006 the government of Upper Bavaria had revoked the preliminary permit from the city due to complaints from neighbors that the mosque as planned did not fit into the architectural style of the neighborhood.
On March 22, 2009, unknown perpetrators attacked a mosque in Stadtallendorf in Hesse, throwing two bottles containing flammable substances that failed to explode against the building. According to press reports, gunshots were fired at the mosque. No one was injured and the attack caused only minor property damage. Elsewhere in Hesse, the construction of a third mosque in Frankfurt was generating calls from local officials for a citywide development plan for mosque construction.
Police concluded that the Worker's Party of Kurdistan (PKK) supporters committed the October 18 attack on a travel agency and grocery store at Hamburg DITIB. During the attack, the windows of both locations were destroyed and the grocery store burst into flames. In September, DITIB received right-wing extremist letters, which originally led authorities to believe that the attack was motivated by anti-Muslim views. Police had identified the source of the letters as a mentally disturbed individual who regularly sends such letters to government institutions. However, the police later found online that PKK supporters had claimed responsibility for the attack.
By contrast, on October 26, 2008, in NRW, a mosque in Duisburg, the country's largest mosque, was inaugurated and constructed without controversy.
The Berlin-Heinersdorf Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosque was successfully completed and inaugurated on October 16, 2008.
The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church continued publicly to oppose Scientology. Evangelical "Commissioners for Religious and Ideological Issues," also known as "sect commissioners," were particularly active in this regard. Additionally, several public and private organizations continued to issue public warnings about Scientology afterschool study programs. The sect commissioners investigate "sects, cults, and psycho-groups" and publicize what they consider to be the dangers of these groups to the public. Evangelical sect commissioners were especially active in their efforts to warn the public about alleged dangers posed by the Unification Church, Scientology, Bhagwan-Osho, Transcendental Meditation, and Universal Life. Print and Internet literature of the sect commissioners portrayed these groups very unfavorably.
The Universal Life group reported that sect commissioner portrayals of the group promoted intolerance and that these portrayals were frequently taken up by the media and municipal authorities, who then denied members of the group access to market stands and sales booths in municipal facilities, lecture halls, and information stands in public places.
Scientologists in Hamburg continued to report discrimination due to the use of "sect filters," stating that the Federal Employment Office (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) continued to use "filters," as did many small and medium-sized businesses. The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce continued to use the "filter" in its mediation department.
Since the 1990s, four of the major political parties (the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union, the Social Democratic Party, and the Free Democratic Party) have banned Scientologists from party membership. Scientologists have unsuccessfully challenged these bans in courts.
In April 2009 several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) started a campaign to encourage young voters to counter right-wing extremism, with the goal of keeping the National Democratic Party of Germany out of the parliament. The project focused on providing financial assistance up to $347 (€250) for every individual campaign project. Jewish NGOs, such as the Central Council of Jews, provided input and assistance on a variety of government-sponsored tolerance-education programs focusing on anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The country is one of the most active members of the 25-country Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights and engages in activities that promote a more positive attitude toward the Muslim community. The U.S. Mission has extensive contact with religious groups and meets frequently at multiple levels with representatives of religious groups to discuss their situation and concerns. The Mission has an active Muslim engagement program that includes student and other exchanges, outreach efforts, and speakers. The Embassy and consulates hosted Iftars and interfaith events to which government officials were invited, thereby encouraging greater dialogue. There have also been mission-wide meetings with prominent leaders from the Muslim communities throughout Germany, including from the Interior Ministry's Islam Conference, which provided opportunities to discuss relevant issues.
In response to anti-Semitic crimes, members of the U.S. Embassy closely followed the Government's responses and expressed the U.S. Government's opposition to anti-Semitism. Mission officers maintained contact with Jewish groups and continued to monitor closely the incidence of anti-Semitic activity. The U.S. Mission promoted religious tolerance by hosting an interfaith Seder to which government representatives as well as prominent members of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities were invited.
The U.S. Government expressed concern regarding infringement of individual rights because of affiliation with Scientology and other minority religious groups, and requested that the Government implement or encourage states to apply immediately all prior court rulings in favor of minority religious groups. For example, on March 18, 2009, Embassy representatives met with Berlin local government officials to address the Berlin district government's placement of an advertising pillar with two placards saying "Stop Scientology" directly in front of the Church's headquarters. Embassy representatives told the officials that the placards were discriminatory.