New rule for mandatory crosses on display goes into effect June 1.
Markus Soder, the Bavarian premier, had triggered an uproar when his cabinet decreed that Christian crosses must be fixed in entrance halls of all buildings open to the public. Soder’s Christian Social Union (CSU) party, known to be politically conservative, will compete in state elections scheduled to be held in October. He and his party declared that the Christian cross is fundamental to Bavarian identity and its way of life. The premier said the cross must be viewed as a cultural symbol more than any religious one. The CSU is closely allied to Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The new rule comes into effect from the first day of June. This action comes as Germany tries to manage about one million immigrants. Most of them arrive as refugees from Africa and the Middle East. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the CDU opened Germany’s borders to majorly Muslim refugees leading to criticism from many Germans about “Islamization” of Germany. There were many critics among her party members as well.
The Bavarian Government justified its mandatory order by saying that hanging crosses inside public buildings are a visible commitment to fundamental values of social and legal order in Germany and Bavaria. Soder said the cross represents elemental values like tolerance, charity, and human dignity. Visible crosses are already compulsory in Bavarian courtrooms and state schools.
Critics have come out heavily against such an injunction. They point out that the new rule violates Germany’s constitutional separation of church and state. A few religious leaders have accused Soder of engaging in politics with the sacred symbol. Der Postillion, a satirical website, suggested the next move which could be made by Soder is to decree that copies of German basic law be used as a doormat in front of all government buildings.
Aiman Mazyek, Chairman of Central Council of Muslims, said Muslims have no problem with the Christian cross. He also noted that German Muslims also have no issues with the growing role of religion in Germany, but added that the neutrality of state should be respected. He then warned about double standards where Christian crosses are hung in public, but Jewish or Muslim symbols get banished from the public sphere. The policy was also criticized by Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, a noted leader of the Protestant church. He said the Christian cross must not be taken advantage of so that others can be excluded.