Friday, March 13, 2015

Germany's Constitutional Court Invalidates Blanket Ban On Teachers' Wearing Hijabs

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court today invalidated a blanket ban on Muslim teachers wearing the hijab (head scarf) while teaching.  Here is Deutsche Welle's summary of the decision in a suit brought by two teachers:
State authorities had decided that the teachers were violating the law, which in North Rhine-Westphalia forbids any religious symbols or actions that are considered a threat to harmonious co-existence at schools. One of the teachers had been dismissed from her job, while the other received a written warning.
The high court ... has now decided that any such symbol or action must pose a "concrete danger" to be forbidden under the law, saying that the ban was an intrusion on the teachers' self-identity.  The ruling means, however, that headscarves could theoretically still be banned in certain individual cases where such a "concrete" danger is considered to exist. This could occur, for example, if a Muslim teacher wearing a headscarf were to cause frequent altercations among pupils...
The ruling on Friday also overturned another clause in North Rhine-Westphalian law that excepted manifestations "of Christian and Western educational and cultural values or traditions" at schools from the otherwise complete ban on blatant demonstrations of religious affiliation.
The court decided that this exception constituted a privileging of Christian symbols over those of other religions, which would go against the ban on discrimination on religious grounds that is enshrined in the German constitution.
[Thanks to Tom Rutledge and Claudia Haupt for the lead.]