Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Members of the Church of Scientology face persecution from the German government and its citizens, raising international concern over the rights of religious minorities in a country determined to overcome its Nazi past. The German Constitution provides many protections for religious freedom and also allows a relatively close relationship between church and state. Historically, the German state has been closely intertwined with the traditionally dominant churches, and today Germans enjoy a great deal of freedom of religion. Until very recently, however, the Federal Constitutional Court has not upheld the similar freedom from religion guaranteed by the "establishment clause" in the German Constitution. This large degree of church involvement in the public realm may have led to a narrowing of many Germans' understanding of what constitutes a religion deserving of constitutional protection. In a recent and controversial case, however, the Federal Constitutional Court ordered the removal of crosses and crucifixes from Bavarian classrooms. The Court held that a state policy mandating their presence in all public school classrooms violated the rights of non-Christians to freedom from religion, although the Court did not rely on the "establishment clause" in its holding. This case suggests that, if presented with a case arising from the current treatment of Scientologists, the Federal Constitution Court may defend the Church's right to freedom from majoritarian domination. Nevertheless, this Note suggests that the Court must give a meaningful interpretation of the "establishment cause" to protect the freedom of religious minorities in Germany.