Christian teacher banned from wearing crucifix under Berlin's neutrality law

A Christian teacher in Berlin has been prohibited from wearing her crucifix necklace under the city's neutrality law which says public sector workers are not allowed to wear religious symbols.

(REUTERS / Sucheta Das)A Christian holds a crucifix during prayer at Missionaries of Charity in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta on October 19, 2003.

Last week, the German Catholic News Agency reported that a Protestant teacher was told to stop wearing her crucifix necklace to work immediately. Berlin-Brandenburg Protestant Church's consistorial president Jörg Antoine has also confirmed that the Christian woman was prohibited from wearing the religious accessory.

According to Antoine, the Church thinks Berlin's neutrality law is unconstitutional. He said the school should have been more lax in implementing the law, an argument that drew support from Berlin Bishop Markus Dröge, The Local notes.

"We advocate for the freedom to wear a cross," said Bishop Dröge.

Berlin's neutrality law generally pertains to the wearing of hijabs or headscarves by Muslim women. However, the law's proponents say it is meant to prevent teachers from exerting religious influence over their students.

On the other hand, Berlin's Labor Court ruled in February that the city violated a Muslim teacher's rights by prohibiting her from wearing her headscarf at work and denying her work under the circumstances. In addition, the court said teaching applicants cannot be blocked from working at public schools on account of their Muslim headscarf, the AFP reports.

According to the court, the school has the discretion to exempt the defendant from the neutrality law on religious freedom grounds. The school was also unable to produce proof that wearing a headscarf to work threatens the institution's peace.

The state explained that it had tried to negotiate with the Muslim applicant and suggested wearing a wig in lieu of the headscarf. Her lawyer, however, insisted that the option was out of the question because of "religious reasons."

The Muslim woman had reportedly been awarded two months worth of salary (almost €9,000) in compensation in the discrimination case. She was also awarded a portion of her legal expenses.