Of Crucifixes and Headscarves: Religious Symbols in German Schools

Tobias Lock

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The paper is concerned with religious symbols in Germany. It mainly focuses on decisions by the Federal Constitutional Court on religious symbols in schools. Court had to deal with two landmark cases concerning the topic of religious symbols. The facts and the outcome of the first decision very much resemble those in the recent Lautsi case: the parents of a child objected to a Bavarian law requiring that a crucifix be affixed in every class room. The Court regarded this as a violation of the student's freedom of religion. The second case added another dimension: the school authority refused to employ a Muslim teacher who insisted on wearing a headscarf in class. In that case not only the students' freedom of religion was at issue but also that of the teacher. The Court managed to avoid a ruling on this conflict of fundamental rights by arguing that the school authority had acted without a legislative basis, which made the refusal to employ the teacher illegal. The paper will look at the arguments made in the academic discussion and by inferior courts (most importantly by the Federal Administrative Court). Furthermore, it will examine the reaction by the legislatures of the Länder, which ranged from categorically banning all religious symbols to allowing only those which are in accordance with 'Christian and occidental cultural and educational values', a provision which was upheld by the Bavarian Constitutional Court. The paper also discusses unsuccessful challenges under anti-discrimination law as well as the possibilities of banning religious symbols worn by students.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw, Religious Freedoms and Education in Europe
EditorsMyriam Hunter-Henin
PublisherAshgate Publishing
ISBN (Print)9781409427308
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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