There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom.
Discrimination against, and unequal treatment of, some religious groups remained a problem at the local levels of the federal government, as well as on the part of some states. Some state governments and federal agencies continued to decline to recognize certain belief systems as religions, making them ineligible for tax benefits, although not affecting their ability to engage in public and private religious activities.
The states of Bremen and Baden Wuerttenburg continued to deny PLC status to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the group’s application in North Rhineland-Westphalia (NRW), filed in 2006, remained pending. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were not able to alleviate these states’ concerns, such as the perceived divergence in the views of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding children’s blood transfusions, from constitutional principles on the rights of the child. On January 26, the Mainz Administrative Court ruled the state of Rhineland-Palatinate must grant PLC status to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The court noted there was no sound reason for denying PLC status because the community observed fundamental constitutional principles.
Scientologists reported instances of governmental discrimination. Although courts at the state and federal level condemned the improper use of so-called “sect filters” to blacklist and boycott Scientologists, they remained in use in the public sector. “Sect filters” typically asked potential new employees to confirm in writing that they had no contact with Scientology, did not participate in its training courses, and rejected its doctrines.
In January the city of Hamburg announced a property for sale, but stipulated that potential buyers must sign a “sect filter” agreement declaring that neither they nor their employees were Scientologists, and that any company operating on the property would not conduct business with any Scientologists, domestic or foreign. In July the Bavarian Ministry for Environment and Health solicited bids for a facility cleaning contract with a similar sect filter.
The federal and state Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (OPCs) in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, NRW, and Thuringia monitored the activities of the COS, mainly focusing on evaluating Scientology publications and public activities to determine whether they violated the constitution. The COS reported that OPC representatives regularly contacted Scientologists to question them about the organization. The COS also reported the OPC collected names of members from church publications and archived the information to use in citizenship and employment proceedings.
A number of Muslim groups suspected of furthering extremist goals remained under observation by state and federal OPCs. Examples included the “Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland” (Islamic Community in Germany), connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose ideology the OPCs considered “socially disintegrative.” The OPCs also suspected the 30,000-member “Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Goruse” (Milli Goruse Islamic Society) of spreading Islamist ideologies rejecting democracy.
Elected officials objected to Salafist Muslims distributing free copies of the Quran, even though most admitted it was legal. Guenter Krings of the governing Christian Democratic Union stated, “Wherever possible, this aggressive action must be stopped.” The government ordered a branch of the security service to monitor the distribution.
The number of Islamic religion classes in public schools continued to grow. Because education remained a state responsibility and there was no nationally recognized Islamic group to assist in developing a curriculum or providing services, the form and content of Islamic instruction varied from state to state. The Alevite community offered religious lessons in seven federal states, involving roughly 12,000 students. Curricula were usually developed in cooperation with the respective state government. NRW was the first state to offer Alevite religious lessons in secondary schools.
In August two female teachers from NRW filed a complaint in the Constitutional Court challenging the state’s ban on headscarves in public schools; the case remained pending at year’s end.
In March the Berlin labor court ruled against a dentist who in 2011 refused to employ a Muslim woman for a traineeship as a dental assistant, despite being qualified, because she refused to remove her headscarf. The court ruled it an act of religious discrimination and in breach of legislation mandating equal treatment, stating that a headscarf was not an “arbitrary piece of clothing,” but an expression of religious beliefs, and wearing it was part of the right to religious freedom. The court ordered the dentist to pay approximately 1,500 euros ($1,966) in damages.
In November the mayor of Hamburg signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the Islamic and Alevite communities committing the city to guarantee the freedom to practice Islam, support Islamic education in public schools, and recognize Islamic holidays and burial customs. In return, all parties agreed on the proscription of violence and discrimination based on ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, faith, and political views.
In August NRW authorities introduced Islamic religious instruction in the regular public school curriculum. The content was determined by an advisory board consisting of four members of the Muslim umbrella organization KRM and four members of the government chosen with the KRM’s consent. Muslim groups in NRW publicly welcomed the development. In October the education minister opened the Center for Islamic Theology with campuses in Muenster and Osnabrueck. The Bavarian state government’s five-year pilot project for providing school courses in Islam continued. A total of 265 schools, most of them elementary schools, offered Islamic instruction for about 10,500 pupils and employed approximately 70 teachers.
Both Jewish and Muslim groups complained vehemently about a June ruling by a district court in Cologne criminalizing as assault the circumcision of boys for non-medical reasons. The federal government responded to Jewish and Muslim concerns by submitting legislation to ensure the continued legality of male circumcision. The issue spurred widespread societal debate before both houses of parliament adopted a new law in December allowing male circumcision for religious reasons, as long as it was conducted in a medically professional manner and without unnecessary pain.
The Ministry of Defense was unable to develop a Muslim chaplaincy because of a failure to reach agreement with multiple Muslim groups on a unified plan of action. The ministry independently developed and implemented a code of conduct to facilitate Islamic practices for an estimated 3,000 Muslim soldiers.
In December Lower Saxony signed agreements with two Muslim groups to select and train Muslim prison chaplains, with the aim of expanding and facilitating religious support for Muslim prisoners.