The Federal Republic of Germany is a democracy. It is no fun, however, to be a Baptist in Germany. For the past two decades, the German authorities have been clamping down on Baptists who want to raise their children in accordance with their own religious principles. In Germany, the state rather than the parents is considered to be primarily responsible for the well-being of children. Hence, the draconic measures taken against Baptists. When, however, it comes to meeting the demands of Muslim the German state is far more lenient.
In 1938, Germany outlawed homeschooling. The ban is one of the few bills introduced by Adolf Hitler that is still on the books in Germany today. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, hundreds of ethnic German families from Southern Russia and Kazakhstan emigrated to Germany. Many of them were Baptists who had been fiercely persecuted in the Soviet Union for their religious beliefs.
Following their arrival in the West, the Baptists soon became unhappy with what their children were learning in the secular German public schools. They decided to homeschool their children. This move led to fierce repression by the German authorities who took the parents to court on charges of “Hochverrat und Volksverhetzung” (high treason and incitement of the people against the authorities). Some parents were imprisoned, some were robbed of their parental authority, some had their children taken away from them. Some children who sided with their parents, such as 16-year old Melissa Busekros in 2007, were placed in a psychiatric ward because, as the psychiatric evaluation report stated, she “considers herself healthy and her behavior fully normal” and, hence, needed “urgent help in a closed setting” where she would get “special education treatment to ensure schooling.” Some families, having fled from the Soviet Union at one time, fled again, from the Federal Republic of Germany to Austria, Britain, or other countries with a more lenient approach to homeschooling. Some parents, however, complied with ‘Hitler’s law’ and reluctantly sent their children to school.
Two years ago, a Baptist couple from Eastern Westphalia kept their two sons, then 9- and 8-years old, home from school on two specific days, namely when the school was going to take them to a sex-education theatre play called “Mein Körper gehört mir” (My Body Belongs to Me) and when the school was having a carnival party. The authorities immediately clamped down on the parents and took them to court. Following two convictions of the couple, the case made its way up to the Bundesverfassungsgericht, Germany’s Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the highest court in the land, which last week also convicted them.
On 11 August, Germany’s Supreme Court ruled that “the religious conviction of a minority” is subordinated to “a contradictory tradition of a differently inclined majority,” even when the latter tradition is incompatible with the religious principles of the minority. The Court sentenced the parents to a fine of 80 euros because on two occasions they had violated their legal obligation to have their children attend school. The Court stated that the right of religious freedom of the parents does not take precedence over article 7, par. 1 of the German Constitution which explicitly states that “The entire education system is under the supervision of the state.” The Court declared that “Consequently, the paternal right to raise children is restricted, in a constitutionally permissible way, by the concretization of the state’s obligation to ensure a universal duty to compulsive school attendance.”
The relentlessness with which the German authorities consistently clamp down on Baptists who want to raise their children according to their own Christian beliefs, contrasts strongly with the leniency of the same authorities towards Muslims. While forcing 8-year olds to attend plays such as “My Body Belongs to Me” can only be considered a fairly recent “tradition” of the Germans, eating sausages and other types of pork definitely is an old German tradition. Nevertheless, in the past years, several public German schools have removed the traditional pork dishes from their menus. Last year the Käthe-Kollwitz-Schule in Minden announced that it was introducing halal food for everyone “to ensure that also Muslim children can have lunch at school.” Though the measure was clearly taken with regard to “the religious convictions of a minority” and went against the “contradictory tradition of a differently inclined majority,” the German authorities did not clamp down on the school, nor on the parents who had been demanding halal lunches for their kids.
While Baptist children are being forced to attend carnival parties at school, a 1993 German court ruling stated that “as long as separate sports classes for boys and girls are not being offered” Muslim girls do not have to participate in the obligatory sports sessions at school. The parents of the girls had explicitly invoked Koranic prescriptions to object to their daughters participating in the co-ed sports classes. Strangely enough, the German school authorities did not appeal the 1993 court ruling and failed to bring the case to the Supreme Court. Instead, they accepted the ruling, which has since become a legal precedent accepted by all school authorities.
Likewise, last May a court in Münster ruled that, though Muslim schoolgirls are obliged to participate in school swimming lessons, they are allowed to wear so-called “burqini” swimsuits that cover their entire body and hide their figures. Wearing the burqini has never been a “tradition” of the majority in Germany – a country with a long tradition of Freikörperkultur or nude sports activities. On the contrary, it is a practice which results from “the religious convictions of a minority” which is less indigenous to Germany than Christian Baptists. Nevertheless, the German school authorities have accepted the Munster ruling. They have not taken the case to the Supreme Court in order to have Muslim children forced to swim in regular swimsuits. Muslim children do not have to comply with the “contradictory tradition of a differently inclined majority” in the same way as Baptist children, whose parents are fined if they do not attend the school carnival.
The difference in treatment of the so-called fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims by the German secular school authorities and courts gives rise to the suspicion that in contemporary Europe some religious minorities are “more equal” than others. While Christians are prosecuted and fined, Muslims are appeased. It makes one wonder if the school authorities would also have prosecuted if, instead of the sons of a Baptist couple, the 8- and 9-years old daughters of a Muslim couple had been kept from school on the day of the sex-ed school play?
The answer to this question is probably “No.” Baptists are a peaceful minority, who want to be left alone and live according to their own values without trying to impose these values on others. Muslim fundamentalists are aggressive and demand that everyone live according to their values. Saying “No” to Baptist demands is not a security risk for a school; saying “No” to Muslim demands is. The German school authorities are well aware of this. Three years ago, the teachers of the Rütli-Hauptschule in the Berlin borough of Neukölln, asked the authorities to close down their school in order to protect them and the native German students who suffered threats and physical violence by Muslim students. Following the appeal of the staff at Rütli College several other schools in Berlin and other German cities complained that they were facing similar problems.
Meanwhile, despite the Baptists’ hatred of German schools, Baptist violence against German school authorities is a non-existing phenomenon. Perhaps this explains why Baptists are bullied, prosecuted and fined by the German authorities, while the same authorities grovel to Muslims with ludicrous demands such as burqini swimsuits. On the other hand, if anyone ever opposes Muslim thugs who want to impose Islamic law on others, it will more likely be the Baptists, who – non-violently but firmly – will defend their own values, than the representatives of the German secularist establishment.