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German Region Mulls a Ban on Religious Symbols in Local Courts

© Photo : PixabayWoman wearing a headscarf
Woman wearing a headscarf - Sputnik International
The issue of religious symbols worn in public spaces has been dealt with by German courts many times over.

The government of the German state of Lower Saxony is drafting a law to ban judges and prosecutors from wearing religious clothing or symbols in the state's courtrooms.

Promoters of the measure say it is aimed at making clear that judges and prosecutors are neutral and free of any religious or ideological bias, Deutsche Welle reported.

The plan has the support of Germany's Justice Minister Katarina Barley, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

"A court decides independently from religious beliefs, and this neutrality must be visible from the outside," Barley said in an interview on Tuesday.

Lower Saxony's Justice Minister Barbara Havliza told DW that "everyone in the court must have the impression that judges or prosecutors are completely free of religious or ideological beliefs”.

Judges’ Support

Syrian and Lebanese girls huddle round in a group discussion about early marriage at a community centre in southern Lebanon. - Sputnik International
Germany’s State Stands for Headscarf Ban for Children Amid Nationwide Debates
The German Association of Judges (DRB) favors the ban with its managing director telling DW that "The judiciary is committed to strict neutrality.

Therefore religious clothing and ideological, political and religious symbols are incompatible with public officials in a courtroom”.

A Controversial Issue

The issue of religious symbols worn in public places is not new to German courtrooms.

Last March, a court in Munich upheld a regional court's ruling that banned a law trainee from wearing a headscarf during court hearings to ensure ‘independence and neutrality’ of the courtroom.

In May, a court in Berlin endorsed the city authorities’ decision to bar a primary school teacher from wearing a headscarf during classes.

However, this position clashed with the recent move by Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soder who ordered Christian crosses be hung in all state buildings.

READ MORE: 14-Year-Old Syrian Girl Thrown Out of Tram 'For Wearing a Headscarf' in Germany

The move was criticised by lawmakers and Catholic officials.

The law, now being drafted in Lower Saxony comes at a time of heated debate over the use of religious symbols in public offices across Germany.

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