Berlin votes keeps religion classes optional | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.04.2009
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Berlin votes keeps religion classes optional

In a referendum on Sunday, voters in Berlin rejected the idea of allowing students to take religion instead of mandatory ethics classes in school.

Pro-reli vote

The "Pro-Religion" referendum failed in Berlin in Sunday

The referendum, which would have given students in Berlin the choice of taking religion classes instead of mandatory ethics classes, failed to recieved the necessary majority to pass.

According to preliminary official results 51.3 percent of voters rejected Sunday's referendum with 48.5 voting "Yes".

The referendum's backers needed support from both a majority of voters and a quarter of all eligible Berlin voters. Early results showed them falling short on both counts.

This means the current ethics education will continue unchanged in Germany's capital. Students are required to take an ethics course and may take additional religion courses if they want. Had the referendum passed, students could have picked ethics or religion, which is the case in the rest of Germany.

Berlin became the exception to the rule in 2006 after ethics classes became compulsory. The change followed an "honor killing" of a Turkish woman in 2005 by her brothers in Berlin because her family disapproved of her western lifestyle.

The referendum had been supported by German chancellor Angela Merkel, the churches and several prominent personalities. Proponents argued that due to the mandatory ethics classes, attendance was falling at optional religion courses in Berlin schools.

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