Home > Public space > Germany > 2005-09-19 - High Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia, n. 8 B (...)

2005-09-19 - High Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia, n. 8 B 1607/05

Public space · Germany · Freedom of religion · Religious symbol

The use of Christian religious symbols during the Grand Tattoo of the German army is no violation of the freedom of religion as long as the individual is not forced to participate

Key facts of the case - During the Grand Tattoo (“Großer Zapfenstreich”), the soldiers get the order to take off their helmets for a silent prayer and afterwards, the hymn “I pray to the power of love” is performed. A theologian and a religion teacher claim that this violates their personal religious freedom.

Main reasoning of the court - The Court found that the plaintiffs’ religious freedom is not violated. The plaintiffs live in Bonn, whereas the Grand Tattoo was held in Cologne. Thus they were not directly affected by it as they were not inevitably confronted with the ceremony. The Court emphasized that in order to proceed against a State action that might be contrary to the principle of State neutrality and to claim a violation of Art. 4 GG, the plaintiffs have to be affected subjectively.
The Court reasoned that as long as the plaintiffs are not forced to participate in the Grand Tattoo, the use of Christian symbols does not violate their religious freedom. Yet, the Court left open, whether the traditional use of Christian symbols during the Grand Tattoo is in accordance with the State’s duty to be neutral towards the different religions and ideologies or not.