What is religious diversity

Christian faith and religious diversity from an evangelical perspective

A basic text of the Council of the EKD. Edited by Gütersloher Verlagshaus 2015, ISBN 978-3-579-05978-5

III. Diversity of Religions - Testing and Proof of Religious Freedom

Religious freedom as a general basic and human right

The protection of religious freedom is one of the basic European convictions. The Basic Law (Art. 4 Paragraphs 1 and 2) is committed to it, as is the European Convention on Human Rights (Art. 9 Paragraphs 1 and 2) and the Charter of European Fundamental Rights (Art. 10 Paragraph 1). The Religious freedom is always there in terms of its protective content and its limits in general terms and applies equally to all religions. It does not differentiate according to social benefit, tradition or majority ability, but stands in the noble tradition of freedom rights, which want to protect especially minorities and divergent views. Even foreign, new forms of belief can rightly invoke religious freedom, just like an ancestral majority religion, as well as the right not to believe or to believe differently as "negative religious freedom". It is therefore at the core of religious freedom that it not only preserves diversity, but also promotes it in many ways. Religious freedom is always and necessarily also freedom of those who believe differently.

Based on the Protestant insight that the certainty of belief and freedom of belief belong together, the Protestant Church affirms this legal idea of ​​general religious freedom. It is important to adhere to it in a renewed way and with a sharper eye for the different problem areas, especially when society becomes religiously and culturally more heterogeneous. In Germany and Europe the individual freedom of belief and belief Effectively protected by the state legal system. At the same time, however, it is always important to assist those who profess a religion or want to renounce it in order to save their life in Self-determination respectively. The Protestant Church supports state law where it enforces this principle, also where it has to counter religious or family traditions, especially with regard to gender equality. And she demands this equal protection for Christians in the regions of the world where they are persecuted because of their faith. The fact that the liberal understanding of the general, equal religious freedom is not respected worldwide, that Christians have to fear for their homeland, security and for their lives, calls for a determined and in every respect clear commitment to a general validity of religious freedom.

The diversity of creed and religious practice

Faith aims at community. That is why there is not only freedom of belief of the individual, but also common creed and public Practice of religion and the right to religious self-government is legally protected (Art. 4 and Art. 140 of the Basic Law in conjunction with Art. 137 of the Weimar Imperial Constitution). This guarantee, too, aims to protect diversity, and here, too, the following applies: The Evangelical Church cannot gain inner strength by limiting the freedom of others or by defending its own privileges. It is therefore indispensable that the religious rights of Judaism are respected, even where they seek forms of expression which Christianity does not appropriate, but which it expressly adopts, as is the case with the circumcision of boys or the slaughtering testament in the Old Testament Has. But also other religions, especially Islam, must be able to develop their beliefs from their own self-image. Christian faith and Christian life do not constitute a standard for a "normal case".

At the same time, however, it also applies that the common practice of religion must not violate the freedom of the individual. Religious communities cannot dispose of people; in the name of religion, no harm must be done to those who are under protection. That is why, for example, genital mutilation of girls and the exclusion of children or women from education or participation in society cannot be justified religiously. Where religion is abused to subjugate people, to trivialize their freedom or to educate them to enmity, public order can and must oppose it, here in our country as elsewhere in the world.

That is why it is good if other religions are theirs Rights in dialogue represent and develop further and face the debate and criticism in the open society - as the Protestant Church has learned in a long historical process. Hermetic sealing "from the world" does not protect religious freedom, it damages it.

Public activity in the neutral state

Christians do not want to confess their faith alone, but also want to work publicly in this faith. The religious communities in Germany are able to have a wide range of public activities. Above all in the area of ​​education and diaconal work, Christians and their churches are a cornerstone of the welfare state, in state institutions as well as in their own institutions. For example, day-care centers and schools run by the church play an important role in meeting those provided by law Educational offers to enable and thus relieve the state of its own activities (Art. 7 Para. 4 and 5 of the Basic Law); In the public school, belief is not confined to the confessional Religious instruction (Art. 7 para. 2 and 3 of the Basic Law), but also as a defining element of school life. Same goes for Diakonia and Caritas, in which the church-supported institutions are strong partners for public supply tasks. The prerequisite and the supporting foundation of this broad spectrum of activities is that the German constitutional state adheres to the principle of religious freedom Religious openness and solidarity has designed. In this way, these spaces for church participation in public space could be preserved, transformed or newly furnished to the benefit of all.

Religious pluralization also creates new conditions and challenges in the area of ​​public activity. For the question of whether and to what extent other religious communities can also take on tasks in public space, it should first be remembered that the Basic Law in Germany - unlike in other constitutional states - is based on the principle of ideological-religious neutrality (Art. 140 GG in conjunction with Art. 137, Paragraph 1 Weimar Constitution: "There is no state church"). The Basic Law wants to be the "home of all citizens". The religion-friendly promise of the Basic Law for broad public activity is therefore subject to the precondition that the corresponding guarantees can basically be given to all religions in the same way.

The Evangelical Church in Germany affirms the religiously neutral state, which has made equal rights of citizens the starting point of its legal system. In the fundamental difference between state and church, it is correct that the Principle of equal treatment the state's legal system specifies the level that it has to comply with with regard to religious communities. Differentiations in legal status are subject to justification. The principle of equal treatment of religions does not lead to a leveling equality: The Protestant Church knows that it is particularly connected to the European heritage and the legal idea of ​​the free constitutional state, which is why the cooperation between the state and Christian churches is often familiar and trusting. Based on this experience, the Church supports the liberal state that Offer of religion-friendly cooperation also to the other religions directs. That is why the Protestant Church is particularly grateful that there is a place for Jewish life in Germany in an increasingly richer form and that it also has reliable partners in the state sector, for example through the conclusion of state treaties. Islam, as the third major religion, must also be able to develop freely in Germany, be it through the construction of mosques or through participation in public life, especially in the field of education. All those involved should not let the principle of equal treatment fail because of formalized requirements that were originally laid down in relation to the internal constitution of the large Christian churches, for example in religious instruction or the organization as a corporation under public law. The decisive factor - beyond the usual formal language - is compliance with basic standards of mutual reliability.

The new religious plurality has led to an increase in legal disputes. The building of mosques, the headscarf of the teacher, the right to the observance of religious customs of pupils in physical education or in the exemption from compulsory schooling (»homeschooling«) are examples of this. In this respect, it should be remembered that in many cases the position of the churches, as it is reflected today in laws and state church treaties, had to be enforced before the courts. The Arguing for your own religion is in the Constitutional state a right that cannot be criticized; and the controversy about drawing boundaries necessarily grows in a pluralized society without this having to be a fundamental problem. The evangelical church claims the defense of its rights for itself where it deems it necessary; for other religious communities nothing else can apply. At the same time, in the manner described, it remains up to the state to formulate and demand "preconditions for freedom".

Perspectives on constitutional law of religion in a European and international context

European integration has given new dynamism to the traditional, nation-state order of state church law. Very different basic convictions are now coming together in Europe, from the state church to traditions of the European Enlightenment to dedicated secularism. But other religions, too, such as Judaism and Islam in particular, have contributed to the common European identity in different ways and in different regional forms since the Middle Ages. The legal status of religious communities is by no means uniform in the European Union. Differences are not primarily evident in the protection of freedom of belief and belief, but above all in relation to the public work of the religious communities - and thus also for the order of coexistence between religions.

The law of the European Union would be shortened and misunderstood if it were reduced to the enforcement of market freedoms. In Europe, which is growing closer together and which has been given decision-making powers in ever larger areas, the insight into the diversity of legal cultures has grown at the same time. The Lisbon Treaty started with the commitment to Respect for the status of churches and religious communities in the Member States (Art. 17 TFEU) this new level of integration for the area of ​​religious constitutional law was expressly included. At the same time, we see that European law creates new burdens to justify the scope of religious self-determination, for example when it comes to special rights as an employer, which must be compared with the fundamental freedoms and the special protection against discrimination of European workers. We set ourselves this task because in it we are a Changing the mode, not the substance, of ecclesiastical freedom see.

The Evangelical Church in Germany is promoting that Understanding of the Basic Law of a religion-friendly openness of the community to get and as a model can also be used in a European and international context. If full religious freedom is respected, and this freedom is also protected for fellow citizens of different faiths, the community can benefit in many ways from the religious communities in its midst. Not only the relationship of the religious communities to the supranationally networked state and its institutions, but also the coexistence with other religions and world views can be further developed in this awareness of partnership.

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