Germany: Crosses May Remain Visible in Bavarian Public Institutions

Source: FSSPX News

Crosses may remain “visibly displayed” in public institutions in Bavaria. The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled on December 19, 2023 that “the Cross is objectively a symbol of the Christian faith.”

According to the court, hanging a cross at the entrance to all public buildings does not constitute an attack on freedom of belief, guaranteed in Article 4 of the German Constitution.

The debate on the cross in public institutions began in Bavaria on April 24, 2018, when Markus Söder, Minister-President of Bavaria, decreed “that a cross must be displayed visibly in the entrance hall of every public building, as an expression of the historical and cultural character of Bavaria” beginning June 1, 2018.

A complaint was filed by the association of free thinkers which demanded the annulment of the decree and the removal of the crosses. Last summer, the complaint was rejected by the Bavarian Administrative Court. The complaining party highlighted a competitive situation in which one religion is favored unilaterally.

Lawyers for the Free State of Bavaria then declared that the crosses in entrance halls did not create a religious “publicity” effect. The Court considered that crosses have their place in public buildings as “an essentially passive emblem, without the effect of proselytism or indoctrination.”

The judgment was confirmed at a second hearing by the Leipzig court. Bavaria's attorney general, Jörg Vogel, said the crosses simply referred to the tradition of Bavarian values. Opponents plan to appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany in Karlsruhe.

When it was promulgated in 2018, the Catholic Church in Bavaria received this decision with reluctance. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and president of the German Bishops' Conference, then criticized it for having triggered “division, concern, opposition.”

In an interview with the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitungle on April 29, 2018, he declared that the cross was “a sign of opposition to violence, injustice, sin and death, but not a sign [of exclusion ] others.”  The fact of displaying the cross could be “misunderstood, as a purely cultural symbol,” he stammered, adding that it is not up to the State to explain what the cross means.

Four years later, when questioned on the subject on December 19, 2023 at the Munich press club, Cardinal Marx replied that he wanted to dispel any doubt that he would not be in favor of crosses. “It’s part of our history. The question is how, not if.”

He referred to crosses on mountain peaks and crosses on roadsides or in schools, all of which are traditions. “We are not making the cross disappear in Bavaria. I don’t have that worry yet,” he said.