Home > Public space > Germany > 2007-03-15 - Federal Constitutional Court, n. 1 BvR 2780/06

2007-03-15 - Federal Constitutional Court, n. 1 BvR 2780/06

Public space · Germany · Religious freedom · School

The obligation to participate in ethics lessons in school does not violate the students’ or parents’ religious freedom

Key facts of the case - The Berlin School Law foresees compulsory Ethics lessons for all students and additional optional religious education.
A Protestant girl did not want to participate in compulsory ethics lessons. She and her parents claimed that this would impede the girl’s access to Christian religious education because attending the optional lessons as well would be an unacceptable additional expenditure of time. Further she claimed that being confronted with other religious and atheistic views in the ethics lesson, her religious freedom (Art. 4 GG) is violated. She also claimed that holding the State’s educational mandate against her religious freedom, ethics lessons with no possibility to be excused are out of proportion.

Main reasoning of the court - The Federal Constitutional Court found that mandatory ethics lessons with no possibility of exemption are no violation of Art. 4 GG.
There is only a minor increase of workload for the students who want to attend religious education as well. The State’s aim to prevent the formation of “parallel societies” and its aim to teach the students mutual respect and open-mindedness towards other religions and views, is a legitimate aim covered by the State’s educational mandate. This aim can be achieved by introducing mandatory ethics lessons that every student has to attend. This does not interfere with the parents’ right to educate their children.
The Court reasoned that the negative religious freedom does not go as far as to give a right to be sheltered from views and ideas that are not in accordance with one’s own religious convictions. Therefore, Art. 4 GG which guarantees religious freedom, is not infringed.