The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religious opinion and provides for freedom of faith and conscience, freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, and freedom to practice one’s religion. It also prohibits an official state church. It stipulates no one shall be required to disclose his or her religious convictions or be compelled to participate in religious acts. The constitution states religious instruction shall be part of the curriculum in public schools, and parents have the right to decide whether their children receive religious instruction. It recognizes the right to establish private denominational schools. The constitution guarantees the freedom to form religious societies and permits groups to organize themselves for private religious purposes without constraint. It allows registered religious groups with public law corporation (PLC) status to receive public subsidies from the states and to provide religious services in the military, hospitals, and prisons.
A federal law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation.
The federal criminal code prohibits calling for violence, inciting hatred, or taking arbitrary measures against religious groups or their members. Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison. It also prohibits “assaulting the human dignity of religious groups or their members by insulting, maliciously maligning, or defaming them,” specifying a maximum penalty of five years in prison, although prison sentences are rare. The prohibition and penalties apply equally to online speech. In addition, the federal criminal code prohibits insulting a domestic religious organization, its institutions or practices, or the religious beliefs or world views of another person, if doing so could disturb the public peace. Violations are punishable by a fine or up to three years in prison but are rarely prosecuted. The federal criminal code prohibits disturbing religious services or acts of worship, with violators subject to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years. The law bans Nazi propaganda, Holocaust denial, and fomenting racial hatred, specifying a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.
By law, social media companies with more than two million registered users in the country must implement procedures to review complaints and remove or block access to illegal speech within seven days of receiving a complaint and within 24 hours for cases considered “manifestly unlawful.” Noncompliance may result in fines of up to €50 million ($53.4 million). Unlawful content includes actions illegal under the criminal code, such as defamation of religions and denial of historic atrocities.
The law permits the federal government to characterize “nontraditional” religious groups – such as the COS – as “sects,” “youth religions,” and “youth sects” and allows the government to provide “accurate information” or warnings about them to the public. The law does not permit the government to use terms such as “destructive,” “pseudo-religious,” or “manipulative” when referring to these groups. Several past court decisions ruled that the government must remain neutral toward a religion and may provide a warning to the public only if an “offer” by a religious group would endanger the basic rights of an individual or place the individual in a state of physical or financial dependence.
Religious groups wishing to qualify as nonprofit associations with tax-exempt status must register. State-level authorities review registration submissions and routinely grant tax-exempt status; if challenged, their decisions are subject to judicial review. Those applying for tax-exempt status must provide evidence they are a religious group through their statutes, history, and activities.
A special partnership exists between the states and religious groups with PLC status, as outlined in the constitution. Any religious group may request PLC status, which, if granted, entitles the group to levy tithes (8 percent of income tax in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, 9 percent in the other states) on members, who must register their religious affiliation with federal tax authorities. Each state collects the tithes on behalf of the religious community through the state’s tax collection process, separately from and in addition to income taxes. PLCs pay fees to the government for the tithing service, but not all groups with PLC status utilize the service. PLC status also allows for benefits, including tax exemptions (larger than those given to groups with nonprofit status), representation on supervisory boards of public television and radio stations, and the right to special labor regulations. State governments subsidize institutions with PLC status that provide public services, such as religious schools and hospitals. In addition, due to historic “state-church contracts” dating back to before 1919, all state governments except Bremen and Hamburg subsidize the Catholic Church and the EKD with different yearly amounts.
According to the constitution, the decision to grant PLC status is made at the state level. Individual states base PLC status decisions on a number of varying qualifications, including an assurance of the group’s permanence, size, and respect for the constitutional order and fundamental rights of individuals. An estimated 180 religious groups have PLC status, including Catholics, the EKD, Alevi Muslims, Baha’is, Baptists, Christian Scientists, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Mennonites, Methodists, Church of Jesus Christ, Salvation Army, and Seventh-day Adventists. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has PLC status in the states of Hesse and Hamburg; no other Muslim communities other than the Alevis have PLC status. The COS does not have PLC or nonprofit status in any state.
Federal animal protection laws prohibit the killing of animals without anesthesia, including as part of halal and kosher slaughter practices. Pursuant to a Federal Administrative Court decision, however, trained personnel may kill animals without anesthesia in a registered slaughterhouse under observation of the local veterinary inspection office if the meat is for consumption only by members of religious communities whose beliefs require slaughtering animals without anesthesia.
Federal law enables authorities to restrict the tattoos, clothing, jewelry, and hair or beard styles of civil servants if this is necessary to ensure the functionality of public administration or fulfill the obligation for respectful and trustworthy conduct. The law specifies that if these symbols are of a religious nature, they may only be restricted if they are “objectively suited to adversely affecting trust in a civil servant’s neutral performance of his official duties.”
According to a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, general headscarf bans for teachers at public schools violate religious freedom, but implementation is left to the states, which may determine if special circumstances apply. The states of Bavaria and NRW do not have strict guidelines; authorities render decisions on a case-by-case basis. Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, Saxony, Thuringia, and Lower Saxony do not prohibit headscarves for teachers. Hesse and Saarland permit teachers to wear headscarves as long as doing so does not impair “school peace” or threaten perceptions of state neutrality. Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg prohibit teachers from wearing full-face veils (i.e., niqabs or burqas). Berlin bans visible signs of religious affiliation for police, lawyers, judges, and law enforcement staff but not for primary and secondary school teachers. In Lower Saxony and Bavaria, judges and prosecutors may not wear religious symbols or clothing in the courtroom. Other states have laws that restrict religious attire in certain circumstances.
Citing safety reasons and the need for traffic law enforcement, federal law prohibits the concealment of faces while driving, including by a niqab. Infractions are punishable by a €60 ($64) fine.
State law in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg forbids students in primary and secondary schools from full-face veiling at school (i.e., wearing a niqab or burqa). This state ban on full-face covering does not apply in higher education. According to federal law, religious groups may appoint individuals with special training to carry out circumcision of males younger than six months. After six months, the law states circumcisions must be performed in a “medically professional manner” and without unnecessary pain.
All states offer religious instruction and ethics courses in public schools. Religious communities with PLC status (or those without such status that have concluded a special agreement with the state granting them this right) appoint religion teachers and work with the states to ensure the curriculum is in line with the constitution; the states pay the teachers’ salaries. Most public schools offer the option of Protestant and Catholic religious instruction in cooperation with those churches, as well as instruction in Judaism if enough students (usually at least 12, although regulations vary by state) express an interest. Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Berlin, Hesse, Lower Saxony, NRW, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, and Schleswig-Holstein also offer some religious instruction in Islam. In most federal states, Muslim communities or associations provide this instruction, while in Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein, the state does. In Bremen, the state offers nondenominational religious instruction for all students. In Hamburg, since the start of the 2022-23 school year in August, the state has offered nondenominational religious instruction for all students in consultation with the Catholic Church, EKD, the Jewish community, and several Muslim associations; previously the EKD provided this instruction.
Students who do not wish to participate in religious instruction may opt out; in some states, those who opt out may substitute ethics courses. State authorities generally permit religious groups to establish private schools as long as they meet basic curriculum requirements. Schooling is constitutionally mandated, and homeschooling, including for religious reasons, is prohibited in all states.
A Bavarian state government decree requires state government agencies to display a crucifix in the entrances of their public buildings.
The government provides annual payments to Holocaust victims and their descendants, and regularly expands the scope of these programs to broaden the eligibility requirements.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The television news program Hessenschau reported that on January 11, the Wetzlar Administrative Court found a police officer assigned to guard Jewish institutions in Frankfurt guilty of inciting hatred for sharing extremist materials online, including videos and photographs of Hitler, and for illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition. The court sentenced him to 16 months’ probation and ordered him to pay a €1,200 ($1,300) fine to the Frankfurt-based Anne Frank Education Center. Police also found a swastika flag in his apartment while executing a search warrant; authorities immediately dismissed the officer from the police force.
In a February press release, the Karlsruhe public prosecutor’s office reported it charged two campaign workers from the Baden-Württemberg branch of the Die Rechte (The Right) party with incitement to hatred for driving a vehicle decorated with posters featuring a well-known Holocaust denier and the slogan “Israel is our misfortune – put an end to it” to the Pforzheim Synagogue, where they played a speech by the Holocaust denier over loudspeakers mounted on the vehicle. The incident took place during the 2019 European Parliament elections. The prosecutor’s office said the two suspects intended to generate hate and encourage violence against the country’s Jews. No trial date was set by year’s end.
The Jerusalem Post reported that on July 15, a Frankfurt court found Franco A., a former military officer, guilty of possessing firearms, ammunition, and explosives, and planning attacks on high-ranking government officials and a prominent Jewish human rights activist. The lead justice said Franco A. had a “hardened far-right, extremist, ethno-nationalist, and especially racist and antisemitic mindset.” According to the Jerusalem Post, throughout his trial, Franco A. made statements admiring a well-known German Holocaust denier. He also kept Nazi paraphernalia in his home and recordings of conversations during which he praised Adolph Hitler, discussed antisemitic conspiracy theories, and said immigration had “ruined Germany’s ethnic purity.” The court sentenced him to five-and-a-half years in prison. He had been detained since his arrest in 2017.
According to Hessenschau, on July 29, Frankfurt prosecutors and the Hesse State Criminal Police Office launched an investigation of five Frankfurt police officers, including three supervisors, for sharing right-wing extremist material, including Nazi symbols, in online chat forums. Authorities suspended the officers pending the results of the investigation.
The Westdeutche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) newspaper reported that as of September, investigations regarding right-wing chat networks among police in Muelheim, NRW, where chat members shared anti-Muslim content in 2021, were ongoing. Authorities suspended 20 officers.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported that on March 10, the NRW Ministry of Interior banned the Dortmund-based mosque Nuralislam for opposing the constitutional order and the “idea of international understanding.” According to the news outlet, the mosque had played an “important role” in recruiting ISIS members and had ties to the leader of ISIS within the country.
NTV News reported that on 28 June, authorities in the Rhineland-Palatinate and five other states searched 50 properties connected to a mosque in Bad Kreuznach, Rhineland-Palatinate that authorities suspected of spreading the ideology of the banned Islamist group Caliphate State in sermons and through the sale of writings and other means of propaganda. Authorities arrested three suspects on charges of membership in a prohibited organization and disseminating propaganda opposing the country’s constitutional order. During the searches, police seized firearms, knives and sabers, data storage media, and hundreds of thousands of euros.
Federal and state Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), the domestic intelligence services, continued to monitor numerous Muslim groups, including the U.S.-designated terrorist groups ISIS, Hizballah, and Hamas, as well as groups such as Turkish Hizballah, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Tablighi Jama’at, Millatu Ibrahim, IZH, Muslim Brotherhood, Milli Gorus, and various Salafist movements. The OPC in Saxony reported it continued to monitor two mosques in Leipzig and Plauen it said were dominated by Salafists.
The federal OPC characterized the IZH as “the most important representation of Iran in Germany besides the Iranian embassy and an important propaganda center of Iran in Europe,” through which the Iranian state sought to “bind Shiites of various nationalities to itself” and “spread its basic social, political and religious values” in Europe. An IZH court case challenging this characterization was still pending at year’s end. The IZH remained a member of the Shura, a council of Muslim organizations in Hamburg. The Shura continued to be the Hamburg state government’s partner for dialogue and cooperation with the entire Muslim community per a formal agreement that the state was reviewing at year’s end. On June 17, the state government confirmed it had revoked the residence permit of the IZH’s deputy chairman, Seyed Soleiman Mousavifar, for illegal activities incompatible with his status; he left the country November 3. In October, the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper reported that several members of the Hamburg legislature and the country’s parliament called for the government to close the IZH and opposition parties Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) introduced federal legislation to this effect. On October 20, Hamburg Deputy Mayor Katharina Fegebank said, “The IZH is the antithesis of our free democratic basic order.”
According to reports from the federal OPC and COS members, the federal OPC and the OPCs of six states – Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, NRW, and Saxony-Anhalt – continued to monitor the activities of the COS, reportedly by evaluating COS publications and members’ public activities to determine whether they violated the constitution. At least four major political parties – the CDU, CSU, Social Democratic Party, and Free Democratic Party – continued to exclude Scientologists from party membership.
“Sect filters,” i.e., signed statements by potential employees to confirm they had no contact with the COS, remained in use in the public and private sectors. Bitter Winter, an online magazine that covers human rights issues, reported that on April 6, the Federal Administrative Court upheld a state appeals court ruling that the Munich city government violated a COS member’s constitutional rights of equality before the law and freedom of religion when it insisted she sign a sect filter with her application for a €500 ($530) municipal electric bicycle subsidy for which she was otherwise qualified. According to Bitter Winter, “Although the case was not about ‘sect filters’ in general, the court’s view seems to indicate that in the absence of a proper law, demanding a declaration of a person’s belief is unconstitutional per se.”
Groups under OPC observation continued to say OPC scrutiny implied they were extremist and that this constrained their ability to apply for publicly funded projects.
Media outlets reported that on July 27, Hamburg’s Higher Regional (district) Court sentenced Jalda A, a Bremen woman married to an ISIS fighter, to five-and-a-half years in prison for, among other crimes, keeping a Yazidi woman as a slave for three weeks when Jalda A. lived in Syria with her husband.
The Rheinische Post newspaper reported that in September, the NRW state government told the Cologne University of Catholic Theology (CUCT), which is owned and funded by the Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne, to stop training priests who enrolled after the 2019/20 winter semester. The state government argued that under a 1929 contract between it and the Vatican, all priests trained in the archdiocese must be educated at the state-funded University of Bonn and that the state’s 2020 accreditation of CUCT was only intended to allow students then enrolled at CUCT to complete their educations.
On September 15, the government and the Claims Conference announced they had reached an agreement to provide additional compensation to Holocaust survivors. The government agreed to pay €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion), mostly for health care for elderly survivors around the world and including €12 million ($12.9 million) in emergency assistance for the 8,500 Jewish surviver refugees remaining in Ukraine. The government also committed to investing nearly €100 million ($106.8 million) towards Holocaust education for the next three years. Chancellor Scholtz said supporting Holocaust education was gaining importance as fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors were alive to tell their stories. Finance Minister Christian Lindner said, “We bear no individual guilt today, but we have a moral obligation and a historic responsibility for what was done in the name of Germany and the name of the German people.… Our responsibility is also to preserve the memory of the Shoah.”
On November 30, the government released its National Strategy against Antisemitism and for Jewish Life. The strategy emphasized five main areas of intervention: data collection, preventive education, boosting Holocaust commemoration, stiffer penalties for antisemitic offenders, and overall awareness of Jewish history and culture.
Bremen remained the only state in the country without an antisemitism commissioner. Representatives of the Jewish community in Bremen said the community preferred to address antisemitism and other issues of concern in an existing forum that included the mayor and president of the legislature.
The Federal Ministry of Research and Education reported it provided €12 million ($12.8 million) in funding to research projects and networks across the country during the year through its “Current Dynamics and Challenges of Antisemitism” initiative. Projects funded included a study on the role of the justice system in combating antisemitism, an examination of how to convey knowledge about Jewish culture to the public, and a project to help teachers and police officers counter antisemitism.
On April 1, the state of Hesse issued a press release announcing the launch of an online platform to counter antisemitism. The site included information and research sources, as well as an antisemitic hate crime report form and contact information for additional assistance. Hessian Interior Minister Peter Beuth said of the site, “From now on, antisemitism can be specifically recorded, analyzed, documented, and thus also combated below the threshold of criminal liability. The message of the state government is clear: discrimination and exclusion have no place, but our Jewish fellow citizens have a firm place in our country. Attacks against Jewish life are always an attack on our democratic and cosmopolitan society.”
Public broadcaster WDR reported that on April 12, the Research and Information Center on Antisemitism, NRW (RIAS NRW), based in Düsseldorf, started recording reports of antisemitic incidents, including those not categorized as crimes, and supporting victims. The North Rhine Association of Jewish Communities ran the independent center, which the NRW state government funded with €266,000 ($284,000) annually.
On July 22, the government of Saxony-Anhalt announced the opening of the Reporting and Counseling Center for Antisemitism in Halle, operated by the NGO OFEK and funded by the state government. The center operated a hotline to document and analyze antisemitic incidents regardless of their level of criminality in order to have a complete record of the experiences of targeted individuals. Creating the center was part of the “State Program for Jewish life in Saxony-Anhalt and against Antisemitism,” which the state government passed in 2020.
WDR reported that in May, a trial court in Cologne fined Polish priest Dariusz Oko €3,000 ($3,200) for an article he wrote in the Catholic magazine Theologisches in 2021 describing homosexuals as “parasites” and “cancerous ulcers” and saying homosexuals should not be admitted to the priesthood. The court also fined the magazine editor €4,000 ($4,300).
Representatives of the Muslim community continued to call upon the Ministry of Defense to provide military chaplains for the estimated 3,000 Muslim members of the armed forces. The ministry stated the lack of an umbrella organization for Muslims with which the ministry could negotiate made it difficult to appoint imams as chaplains but that it would continue to seek a solution to the issue.
The military reported it added two additional Jewish chaplains during the year, bringing the total to three, with a goal of eventually appointing 10 rabbis to serve the 150-300 Jews in the armed forces. In July, the military cooperated with the Central Council of Jews to conduct a one-week training course for prospective Jewish chaplains and chaplains’ assistants. The military reported that in April, the Military Rabbinate cohosted Passover services with the Brody Synagogue in Leipzig, and in May, the rabbinate cohosted Sukkah services with the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin.
Religious groups, including the Coordination Council of Muslims, whose members included the country’s largest Muslim organizations, expressed concern that authorities might restrict civil servants from wearing headscarves or other religious symbols under the federal law allowing authorities to restrict the display by civil servants of religious symbols if these are “objectively suited to adversely affecting trust in a civil servant’s neutral performance of his official duties.”
The WAZ reported that in January, St. Marien Hospital, a publicly owned hospital operated by a Catholic organization in Herne, NRW, fired a woman two weeks into a three-month internship for wearing a headscarf on duty. The woman said hospital management told her, “Either you take off your headscarf or you have to end your internship.” Hospital management told the press that wearing a headscarf during working hours was prohibited under workplace rules, which required that employees maintain a neutral religious appearance towards patients. The intern said she was surprised at the dismissal, since she had worn a headscarf to her job interview. She told the WAZ, “I feel very discriminated against.”
According to representatives of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, officials and judges in asylum proceedings often expressed skepticism about Ahmadi individuals’ professions of faith or disregarded concerns that they could not practice their faith openly in their homeland. Representatives said this led to the deportations of several community members to Pakistan, where they faced persecution.
The Christian advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) reported that in August, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the case of “H.H.,” an Iranian national and Christian convert who sought asylum in Germany, claiming he would be persecuted for his faith if he returned to Iran. The government denied his asylum claim. According to ADF, the Greifswald Administrative Court that rejected his appeal of a lower court ruling against him stated it was unconvinced H.H. had genuinely converted to Christianity. The London-based religious freedom NGO Article 18 reported H.H.’s pastor in Germany testified in writing, “Because of what I do at the church, and the experience I have with Christians from Iran, I personally believe that I can say that his testimony of him being a believer is trustworthy.”
The weekly Jüdische Allgemeine reported that on August 24, Saxony-Anhalt Interior Minister Tamara Zieschang and State Chairperson of the Jewish Communities in Saxony-Anhalt Max Privorozki signed an agreement to establish a position of official rabbi to the state’s police forces. The first official rabbi took office on September 1. The rabbi taught police trainees about Jewish life and traditions and provided chaplain services, among other responsibilities.
The Catholic News Agency reported that on August 31, the Mannheim Administrative Court ruled that silent prayer gatherings near an abortion counselling facility in the city of Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg State, could not be prohibited. A group called 40 Days for Life brought the case. The decision overturned a municipal ban on such gatherings issued in 2019 and upheld by a lower court in 2021. The Mannheim Administrative Court held that “authorities could only make an assembly dependent on such a condition if public safety would be directly endangered if the assembly were held. This was not the case here.”
The states of Schleswig-Holstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, NRW, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin, Bavaria, and Baden-Wuerttemberg provided chaplain services to Muslim prison inmates, according to figures published in 2021, the latest available. The states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, and Meckenburg-Vorpommern, where Muslims accounted for between 4 and 13 percent of prison inmates, did not offer Muslim chaplains. Catholic and Protestant chaplains were available to inmates throughout the country.
The magazine Islam iQ reported that on October 14, a muezzin at the Cologne Central Mosque issued the call to Friday prayers through a loudspeaker, the first mosque in the city to do so as part of a two-year pilot project implemented by Mayor Henriette Reker. The city government set parameters that the call to prayer may only occur between noon and 3 p.m., last a maximum of five minutes, and have the volume regulated. The magazine said approximately a dozen mosques in the country, including in Munich, Dueren (NRW), and Raunheim (Hesse), regularly issued calls to prayer using loudspeakers.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, authorities in multiple cities, including Fulda, Hamburg, and Munich, restricted or banned the group from using temporary display carts with Bible-based and other religious literature in public and issued fines to violators. Jehovah’s Witnesses said they were unable to set up literature displays in airports and train stations, and that police in several cities harassed Jehovah’s Witnesses using temporary display carts.
Jehovah’s Witnesses said when Ukrainian refugees who were Jehovah’s Witnesses began arriving in the country by train, authorities denied Jehovah’s Witnesses volunteers and spiritual counselors access to the Frankfurt, Munich, and Berlin train stations, while granting access to other religious groups.
On January 25, the Rhineland-Palatinate Higher Administrative Court confirmed a 2021 ruling by the Mainz Administrative Court that the state government’s 2019 closure of the state’s only Islamic kindergarten, the al-Nur Center in Mainz, was lawful. State authorities said the center was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist organizations. The court said the operators of the kindergarten had done nothing “to prevent the children cared for from slipping into a religiously influenced parallel society.”
On May 31, the Hessen Administrative Court rejected an appeal by the State of Hesse and upheld a Wiesbaden Administrative Court 2021 ruling that the state government had unlawfully ended cooperation with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs on denominational Islamic religious education in Hesse public schools in 2020. The State of Hesse resumed its cooperation in compliance with the court order in August. The Turkish-Islamic Union began offering Islamic religion classes in primary schools for the 2013-14 school year, but the government questioned whether the association was sufficiently independent of the Turkish state. According to the Legal Tribune Online, from 2020 onwards, the Hesse government offered religious instruction covering all schools of Islam for grades one through nine, with the curriculum set by the state.
Media outlets reported that as of October, a dispute between Abdel-Hakim Ourghi, an instructor at the Freiburg University of Education, and the Sunni School Council Foundation, which oversees Islamic religious education in Baden-Wuerttemberg public schools on behalf of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, remained unresolved. In 2021, the foundation rejected Ourghi’s teaching license, citing missing credentials and the lack of an agreement with the foundation prior to his permanent employment, while Ourghi and media critics said the foundation opposed what they described as his more liberal interpretation of Islam. In July, Ourghi rejected the ministry’s compromise suggestion that would have allowed him to keep his current position, under the supervision of a professor who held the credentials required by the foundation. Ourghi, who continued to teach at the university but not in the area of Islamic religious pedagogy, said he would continue to pursue a remedy in the courts.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, in January in NRW state, a primary school teacher forced two boys to participate in holiday craft activities offensive to their religious beliefs. The teacher reportedly told the class that the boys were “not real Christians” because they did not participate in these activities. The teacher also forced the boys under threat of punishment to sing the national anthem, in violation of their religious beliefs.
According to the Humanistic Union, an organization that describes its mission as working to protect and enforce civil rights, including the right to free development of the personality, total state government contributions during the year to the Catholic Church and the EKD totaled approximately €594 million ($634.6 million), compared with €581 million ($620.7 million) in 2021. The union said it calculated its estimate based on budgets of the 16 states. The Humanistic Union advocates the abolition of state church privileges such as faith-based religious education as a regular school subject, collection of church taxes, and other financial aid to religious groups.
The government continued to subsidize some Jewish groups. Based on an agreement between the federal government and the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the federal government contributed €13 million ($13.8 million) to help maintain Jewish cultural heritage and support integration and social work, the same amount as in 2021. In addition, the federal government again provided financial support to the Institute for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, the School of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam, and the Leo Baeck Institute, an international group researching the history and culture of German Jewry.
State governments continued to provide funds to Jewish communities and organizations in various amounts for such purposes as the renovation and construction of synagogues. The federal government continued to cover 50 percent of maintenance costs for Jewish cemeteries. State and local police units continued to provide security for synagogues and other Jewish institutions.
The federal and Lower Saxony governments reported they continued to subsidize the country’s only public Islamic seminary, located in Osnabrueck and founded in 2021. Five Muslim federations, including the Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the Muslim Community of Lower Saxony, operated the seminary and a commission of their representatives set the curriculum. In 2021, the federal and Lower Saxony governments committed to provide €5.5 million ($5.8 million) in funding to the school over five years. Approximately 85 students were enrolled at the seminary.
In September, the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court confirmed a lower court ruling ordering the Muslim Association for Culture, Education, and Integration (VKBI), a mosque association, to return a leasehold on property on which it partially built a mosque to the city of Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg. The city sold the land to the VKBI in 2014 on condition that the mosque be open by October 2018. When the mosque was not completed by the agreed-upon deadline, the city invoked its contractual right to nullify the sale. The court ruled that the VKBI violated the sales contract, could not take ownership of the property, and must pay €6 million ($6.4 million) in court costs, but that the city must compensate the VKBI for the increase in value of the property due to the nearly finished building. The fate of the still unopened mosque building itself was unclear at year’s end, but according to media reports, the city and VKBI were engaged in talks to find a compromise and avoid further legal action.
According to a report in the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper, on February 9, the city council of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, agreed to sell 1,900 square meters (20,451 square feet) of municipal land to the Muslim community for construction of a mosque and cultural center. Once completed, the mosque would be the first purpose-built mosque in Saxony-Anhalt. The CDU, Free Democrat Party, and Alternative for Germany voted against the sale, with the CDU stating that it based its vote on the need for public consultations and possible consideration of alternative sites.
The Frankfurt Journal newspaper reported construction of Frankfurt’s Jewish Academy continued during the year. In May, representatives of the University of Frankfurt and the Central Council of Jews in Germany signed a memorandum of understanding to institutionalize close cooperation between the university and the academy. According to sponsors, the academy, due to open in 2024, would function as an intellectual center of Jewish life, philosophy, and culture. Construction costs, estimated at €34.5 million ($36.8 million), were shared by the federal government, the state of Hesse, the city of Frankfurt, and the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
The weekly Jüdische Allgemeine reported that the Jewish community in Magdeburg laid the foundation stone of a new synagogue in the city on September 14, with the opening planned for November 2023. The state of Saxony-Anhalt funded €2.8 million ($2.9 million) of the approximately €3.8 million ($4 million) construction cost and the city of Magdeburg provided €600,000 ($641,000), and a private association, the New Synagogue Magdeburg, raised €400,000 ($427,000) toward the project. Saxony-Anhalt Governor Reiner Haseloff called the synagogue’s construction a “sign of confidence and solidarity.”
On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated in a prerecorded video message played at a B’nai B’rith International event in Washington, D.C. that she was “ashamed” of growing antisemitism in the country. “Terrorist attacks on synagogues, hate speech, Jews wearing a kippah and being attacked on the open street in Berlin because of it, and people wearing yellow stars with the words ‘unvaccinated’ at demonstrations – all this is intolerable,” she said, adding, “We respond to such acts with the full force of our laws.”
Responding to an April 23 pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin at which participants yelled or chanted antisemitic slogans, threw objects at police, and harassed journalists, on April 24, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser posted on Twitter, “There is no place for hostility towards Jews in our society. The constitutional state must act consistently here. We must never get used to antisemitic insults – no matter from where and from whom they come.” Police arrested several demonstrators for assault, inciting racial or religious hatred, and disturbing the peace.
On September 4, speaking at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Yad Vashem Circle of Friends in Germany, Chancellor Scholz stated, “On behalf of the German government, I can say that the fight against antisemitism, the fight against right-wing extremism and racism is our top priority.” Scholz added that antisemitism and Holocaust relativism would not be tolerated. On August 17, Scholz expressed regret for not forcefully rebutting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on August 16, when Abbas said at the end of a joint press conference with Scholz that Israel had committed Holocausts against Palestinians.
On February 7, German state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) released the findings of an independent commission of experts into antisemitism at the media outlet. According to DW, the investigators found “no structural antisemitism” in DW’s Arabic service staff but concluded five employees made comments or posts that were antisemitic, relativized or denied the Holocaust, or denied Israel’s right to exist. DW fired the employees. DW Director General Peter Limbourg said, “The mere suspicion of antisemitism in a German, tax-funded institution must be intolerable for Jewish people in this country and around the world.… Freedom of expression is never a justification for antisemitism, hatred of Israel, and denial of the Holocaust.”
The government continued the German Islam Conference dialogue with Muslims in the country. The dialogue’s stated aim was to improve the religious and social participation of the Muslim population, give greater recognition to Muslims’ contributions to society, and – in the absence of a central organization representing all Muslims in the country – further develop partnerships between the government and Muslim organizations. Federal Interior Minister Faeser met with dialogue members and other representatives of the Muslim community chosen by the dialogue on May 5 to set the dialogue’s priorities for the next four years, which included strengthening social cohesion, preventing hate against certain groups, and strengthening the structures of Muslim organizations.
The Bavarian public radio station BR24 reported that on June 1, the Bavarian Higher Administrative Court rejected a lawsuit by a humanist organization, the Association for Freedom of Thought in Bavaria and Munich, challenging Bavaria’s decree that all state government buildings display a crucifix in their public entrances. The court determined that although the display was inconsistent with the state’s obligation to maintain neutrality in religious affairs, it did not amount to actionable infringement of the plaintiff’s rights, as the crucifixes were “essentially passive symbols without an indoctrinating or missionary effect.” The association indicated it would appeal the ruling.
The Rheinische Post reported that on August 9, NRW Commissioner for Jewish Life and against Antisemitism Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called for a review of antisemitic stereotypes in the police force. Within and outside of the security services, antisemitic statements and acts “are frequently not recognized or given appropriate weight when reports are recorded or investigations are carried out,” she said. As an example, she cited demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions at which participants wore yellow stars with the inscription “Unvaccinated.”
On August 27, after the publication of a report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Trier prepared by an independent commission established by the diocese, Saarbruecken Mayor Uwe Conradt called for the resignation of the Bishop of Trier Stephan Ackermann and his predecessor Reinhard Marx, who was Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Bishop Ackermann rejected the call for his resignation, saying the decision was for Pope Francis to make.
Media outlets reported in December 2021 and January that a number of public officials and Jewish groups condemned the Simon Wiesenthal Center for including Baden-Württemberg Antisemitism Commissioner Michael Blume in its 2021 “Global Antisemitism Top Ten” list, published in December 2021. The center cited an anti-Zionist social media post Blume reportedly “liked” in 2019. In January, Blume told the Jewish Telegraph Agency he did not recall the incident and said, “I believe that Zionism is fully legitimate and that Israel has the right to exist securely for all times to come. For me, anti-Zionism equates [to] antisemitism, pure and simple.” Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany Felix Klein, Baden-Württemberg Minister President (governor) Winfried Kretschmann, the Jewish community of Baden, and the Anne Frank Educational Center supported Blume. The Central Council of Jews in Germany called the criticism of Blume “absurd.”
The country is a member of the International Holocaust remembrance Alliance (IHRA).