German Court Bans Teacher from Wearing Hijab

The German federal law is applicable across all states

The Berlin labor court ruled that a specific law which prohibits a Muslim teacher from donning a headscarf while teaching in a public school does not violate any constitutional rights linked to religious freedom. The teacher is employed in a public secondary school in Berlin.

According to dpa, the news agency which first published the news, the ruling by the court explicitly stated that the colloquially named neutrality law which bans all kind of religious clothing won by judicial employees, public teachers, and police officers cannot be termed unconstitutional. The court made the point that the concerned teacher consented to follow that particular neutrality law at the time of hiring.

The woman made her complaint with the state of Berlin. The city follows a neutrality law which bans anyone employed in public services to wear any religious symbols. There was a similar court suit in 2017. The complainant in that case won 8,680 euros (equivalent to $10,300) as compensation. She alleged that she had been discriminated against due to her headscarf. The court agreed the same. The ruling was, however, a one-off.

Justice Arne Boyer gave the ruling that the commonly termed neutrality law as applicable in the state stops wearing of any overt religious clothing and symbols for all on-duty state employees carries much more weight compared to the right of free religious expression.

Bans like these in Germany are state-level decisions. In 2015, the law applicable to the North Rhine-Westphalia region forbidding headscarves was struck down by a Federal Constitutional Court. The law had a problem: it stops anyone from donning headcovers except those followed by western and Christian cultural and educational values or traditions. The complainant can appeal the ruling done by the said Berlin court.

The young woman who filed the complaint was not named in the public domain. She also did not attend her own case court hearing. The teacher was permitted to continue teaching the older vocational students.

The ruling can be appealed. It is expected this ruling will influence a broader debate on relevant issues in Germany. The country has 16 federal states and rules concerning hijab headwear are set individually by each state. German national law forbids all civil servants from wearing Muslim hijab headscarves. Some German states weigh between the neutrality of civil servants and freedom of religion on an individual case basis.

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