25 years after the “cruzifix-decision”: Jörn Thielmann and Mathias Rohe comment
In the article on web.de, “From cruzifix to headscarf: this is the state of the debate 25 years later,” Jörn Thielmann, managing director, and Mathias Rohe, director at EZIRE were among the experts asked for comments about the topic.
The law to put up a cruzifix in every Bavarian classroom was, in fact, unconstitutional, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe decided in a 1995 verdict. As a religious symbol in a state-run context, it did not adhere to the state’s duty of neutrality.
However, nothing much had changed about the situation in Bavaria consequently. The removal of the cruzifix had only been carried out in single cases after certain objections. What the symbolic perpetuation of a single religion in a public institution means for us today – especially for muslims in Bavaria – assess Thielmann and Rohe.
Even though the cruzifixes were still passively infringing upon the freedom of religion, Jörn Thielmann says, “it did not seem to pose too big a problem for Muslims and other religious groups.” However, too little notice was being taken of parent’s and student’s removal requests.
In connection to a growing debate about teachers, who wear headscarfs during in school and during lessons, we were talking about a two-class society, Thielmann diagnoses. Although one could not compare the prohibition of headscarfs to the cruzifix-decision and justify it with the state’s duty of neutrality.
Mathias Rohe puts it in a nutshell: “The secular state has to keep up a religious and ideological neutrality in whatever sphere it is involved. That does not mean, however, that religion has to be banned from the public sphere.” Moreover, Rohe says, the cruzifix was being instrumentalised as a political sign of cultural self-assertion: “This shows a worldwide trend to cover up cultural uncertainty with demonstrative but ultimately meaningless gestures.”
In the article’s closing remarks, Rohe emphasises that – within the debate about cruzifixes, headscarfs and other religious symbols – nothing was wrong with a public profession of religion, as long as respect on all sides and a certain restraint came along with it. “In the end, they [the symbols] mirror the religious diversity in this country and offer opportunity for a self-determined positioning.”