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Sitz im Leben


From: Herder Korrespondenz, 12/2013, P. 598 f.
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    A conference on the religio-political discussion in Germany


Just the Special Rapporteur on religious and philosophical issues of the United Nations, the German professor of human rights and human rights policy Heiner Bielefeld, as an expert repeatedly warns his compatriots against jeopardizing the religious freedom in Germany.

At the latest with the dispute over the religiously motivated circumcision of boys in the summer of last year in Germany a growing contempt for religion was noticeable, an aggressive lack of understanding for the concerns of religious communities and religions.

Such observations and other current religio-political conflicts in Germany, from the headscarf debate, the swimming lessons for Muslimas, the so-called labor law-related "Tendenzschutz" for church institutions, up to the increasing pluralism of the religious landscape in Germany formed the "Sitz im Leben" of a remarkable meeting in mid-October in Stuttgart. "Freedom from, for and with religion" was the heading of the meeting.

As a joint event of the Baden-Württemberg State Ministry and the Catholic Academy of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, the expert meeting was expression and proof of the constitutionally secured, special relationship between state, society and religion (religious communities) in Germany, of this on a world-wide basis legally unique model: the "benevolent neutrality" of the state toward churches and religious communities or in other words, the "cooperative separation" between religion / church and state.

It was quite impressive how much expertise and prominence, and which surprising constellations talked together about this topic: as e.g. the acknowledged expert in questions of state-church law and previous chairman of the EKD Council, Bishop emeritus Wolfgang Huber, and one of the most creative, perhaps even most idiosyncratic philosophical minds in Germany, Peter Sloterdijk.

The leader of the Left Party fraction in the Bundestag, Gregor Gysi has in these issues a family history by his father Klaus, who was inter alia State Secretary for Church Affairs in the GDR. To a great extent advocate of the German model, he discussed with the Protestant Berlin theologian Rolf Schieder, a polyglot expert for civil religion (in the U.S.) and civil religious rituals.

But on the same panel there were also the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims Aiman Mazyek and Michael Schmidt-Salomon. Mazyek emphatically advocated that Muslims, according to the German state-church law, are at long last seen as partners on an equal footing by the state and society. Schmidt-Salomon, the well-known writer and spokesman of the religio-critical "Giordano Bruno Foundation," used the meeting for a tireless fight, for instance against special labor law-related regulations for church hospitals, or the information about one's religious affiliation to the employer, resp. for a strict separation of state and religion in general.

The description of the situation was given from very different perspectives. Illustrated by abundant empirical material, the Münster expert in sociology of religion Karl Gabriel urged to perceive the phenomenon of "secularization" in its diversity and not only as a history of decay, resp. to recognize also the opportunities for religion - though not necessarily for the churches.

From the perspective of a constitutional expert, the former judge of the Federal Constitutional Court Udo di Fabio underlined the crucial role of the churches and religious communities in society (keep open the horizon of meaning). But he also warned against secularist undercurrents and a dangerous lack of understanding of the importance of social institutions in many parts of the German contemporary society as a whole; also the churches and other religious communities would suffer from it.

As a Catholic theologian, the Cologne Hans-Joachim Höhn wanted expressly not to play the part of "Public Defender" and simply reversed the perspective. He referred to the, as one would expect, in this meeting much cited theorem of the constitutional expert Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, according to whom the liberal secular state lives on prerequisites which it can not be guarantee. Höhn described for his part to what extent today religion has to rely on the protection by the neutral state for the sake of securing the legitimate exercise of religious affairs.

And this meeting had another "Sitz im Leben." It was represented by an interesting pair of the Alliance 90/The Greens: Baden-Württemberg's Minister President Winfried Kretschmann, realo wing, as an avowed Catholic member of the Central Committee of German Catholics and the Diocesan Council of the Archdiocese of Freiburg, and Sven Giegold, Member of the European Parliament and founding member of the anti-globalization "movement Attac." She is more of a "left Green," and as an avowed Protestant Christian, among others, a member of the "Präsidialversammlung" of the German Protestant Church Congress.

Together they currently compile a religio-political position paper for their party, apparently in fierce confrontation with many Greens who sympathize decidedly with laicist or secularist ideas. According to the committed statements of Kretschmann and Giegold at the Stuttgart conference, this position paper will very decidedly plead for the retention of the existing model of the "balanced" separation of religion and state, i.e. religious education in state schools (of course also for Muslims) and a by the State collected church tax. Needless to say, both also demanded to develop this model - in accordance to the altered religious landscape. A conceivable measure could be, for instance, some kind of "church tax" for Muslims or an Islamic Caritas or Diakonie.


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