Friday, November 6, 2009

A tale of crucifixes and minarets

Article 137:6 of the Weimar Constitution, which was incorporated into Article 140 of the Federal Republic's 'Basic Law, provides the basis for the so-called "Church Tax" in Germany. This means that in Germany, "religious societies that are corporations under public law shall be entitled to levy taxes on the basis of the civil taxation lists in accordance with Land law." This, however, should not be construed as meaning that Germany is anything other than a secular society. Indeed, if a person doesn't want to pay the tax then the can simple sign a document declaring that they are no longer a member of any particular religious society.

Nevertheless, this should not detract from the role that the great gobbledegook actually plays in German society and when the constitutional court in Karlsruhe issued a decree which stated that displaying crucifixes in the classrooms was unconstitutional, the Bavarian parliament came up with a new law, requiring the removal of crucifixes - but only if a parent insisted. The crosses are still there and the law, German law, is being flauted. Moreover, now we have a ruling in favour of an athiest mother in Italy from the European Court of Human Rights which states:
"The presence of the crucifix – which it was impossible not to notice in the classrooms – could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion. This could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities…The State was to refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it. In particular, it was required to observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education, where attending classes was compulsory irrespective of religion, and where the aim should be to foster critical thinking in pupils." Will the crosses be coming down all over Europe in the not too distant future?

Society is changing and they might indeed; nevertheless, even as I write this the televison news is informing me that Berlosconi's Italy and the Vatican is already refusing to follow the judgement from the ECHR, while in Switzerland there is to be a referendum against mosque minarets. And what do I think about all of this? Well, we can hardly go around destroying Europe's cultural heritage, therefore, I am not for blowing up the Vatican.  Nevertheless, we don't need that little church across the river from my flat "ding dong dinging" and disturbing my peace, we most certainly don't need images of dead men hanging on crosses in schools and we most certainly don't need to introduce a new version of the gobbledegook into our secular Europe. However, it is time to promote that secular Europe and maybe, just maybe, there might come a day when Fürstenfeldbruck and countless other places across Europe will be free of the gobblydegook and perverse images of the sort shown above. The rulings from the constitutional court in Karlsruhe and from the ECHR are a beginning and, while there are no general laws in history, if we are lucky, the beginning of the end for organised gobblydegookers in Europe and we even have the not so trendy lefty, me, finding myself in agreement with right wing Switzerland, at least, when it comes to minarets.

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