Churches, which as employers employ more than 1.2 million people throughout Germany, are increasingly faced with questions about church labor law. We present the most frequent questions and answers.
Why is there a separate church labor law in Germany??
The conditions under labor law for the more than 1.2 million employees of the churches and their welfare associations differ considerably from the provisions applicable to other employees. The basis for this is the Basic Law, which grants the religious and ideological communities a far-reaching right to self-administration and self-determination with regard to freedom of religion.
What does church labor law say??
Church employees are expected to conform to church beliefs and morals in their private lives as well. A breach of these duties of loyalty – such as leaving the church or entering into a second civil marriage after divorce – entails graduated consequences under labor law, up to and including dismissal. In addition, church employees have their own ways of shaping labor law. Working conditions and pay scales are set by labor law commissions with equal representation of employers and employees. The right to strike is excluded, as is a lockout. Trade unions were excluded for a long time; however, there is now a narrowly defined participation.
What do the courts say about the church's own labor law?
In recent years, several high courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, the German Federal Court of Arrest and the German Federal Labor Court, have dealt with labor law conflicts in the space of churches. Time and again, this has involved weighing the church's right to self-determination as an outgrowth of corporate religious freedom against the individual human rights of employees to freedom of opinion and individual religious belief, the right to private and family life, or protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, for example.
In several cases, the European Court of Human Rights called for a consideration of each individual case and depending on the proximity to the church's proclamation mission. It emphasized more strongly individual human rights. In contrast, the Federal Constitutional Court rather strengthened the churches' right to self-determination. In the rulings of 1985 and 2014, the judges ruled that it was solely up to the churches to determine in a binding manner what the credibility of their preaching required and what the essential principles of the doctrine of faith and morals were. State neutrality prohibits courts from making their own assessment of religious norms.
Why is church labor law nevertheless coming under increasing criticism??
In March 2012, the city of Konigswinter near Bonn withdrew the sponsorship of a kindergarten from a Catholic parish for the first time in Germany. Previously, the parish had terminated the popular daycare center director because she was living with a new partner after separating from her husband. The church's approach is increasingly experienced by the public as ruthless and is no longer supported. Particularly in eastern Germany and in some large cities, it is also becoming increasingly difficult for churches to find employees who are church members and meet the corresponding loyalty requirements.
In addition, there is also political prere: Although in 2012 the majority of the Bundestag backed church labor law and rejected a motion by the left-wing parliamentary group that questioned this proper right. The Greens abstained from the vote. However, politicians from the CDU/CSU, FDP and SPD also demanded more mercy from the churches and a consistent application of their labor laws. At the same time, they deplored abuses.
How the church reacts?
Many Catholic bishops also urge change. In 2012, the Bishops' Conference set up a working group to further develop church labor law. "The expectations, the impatience and the anger are great", this is how the Rottenburg-Stuttgart Bishop Gebhard Furst analyzed the situation. Possibilities for action have the bishops quite. Because unlike the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments, labor law is not about world church and dogmatic ies. Church labor laws in Germany are unique in the world.