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German Court Rules That Muslim Student Can’t Refuse Catholic Services In School

REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent

Germany’s Constitutional Court rejected a lawsuit from a Muslim boy’s parents, who argued that their son should be exempt from religious teachings at a state-funded Catholic school.

The parents did not make a case good enough for judges to consider the lawsuit from March, Deutsche Welle reported Monday. The refusal effectively affirms the school’s right to make religious services and classes mandatory for all students, regardless of faith.

The decision has stirred a debate over Article 7 of the German Constitution, which states that “parents and guardians should have the right to decide whether children shall receive religious instruction.”

“This is something you could really argue a lot about,” Michael Wrase, a public law professor at the University of Hildesheim and research fellow at the Berlin Social Science Center, told DW. “The state is allowed to set up such schools even though it is obligated to maintain religious neutrality.”

Similar high-profile cases have taken place in Switzerland in recent years. The country won a six-year court battle in January against Muslim parents who refused to let their daughters take part in swimming lessons with boys.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the state was right in enforcing “the full school curriculum” and ensuring the children’s “successful integration” into Swiss society. ECHR acknowledged the mandatory swimming requirement interfered with religious freedom without violating it, saying it “protects foreign students from any form of social exclusion.”

Two Muslim students in Switzerland who refuse to shake hands with female teachers lost a court case in September 2016 and were ordered to pay more than $5,000 if they continued to ignore the Swiss tradition.

The brothers garnered international attention after their school gave them an exception from taking part in the traditional hand-shaking ritual. The boys claimed that physical contact with women that aren’t family members is a violation of their Muslim faith.

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