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Germany

Court: Headscarf Ban Applies to Nuns

A German federal court has ruled that a regional ban on Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in public schools must also apply to Christian nuns, according to a news report.

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Dressed like this, they won't be allowed to teach in the future

The Federal Administrative Court has ruled that a law passed in April in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg was unfair because it only applied to Muslim women yet permitted Christian symbols, news weekly Der Spiegel reported in an advance copy of its Monday issue.

Nuns, who often work in public schools in the predominantly Roman Catholic Black Forest region of the state, will now be required to remove their habits before entering the classroom.

"Exceptions for certain forms of religiously motivated clothing in certain regions are out of the question," the federal judges of the court based in Leipzig, eastern Germany wrote in their ruling as quoted by the magazine. A copy of the ruling could not be obtained Sunday.

The author of the state legislation, law professor Ferdinand Kirchhof, told Der Spiegel that nuns' habits were considered to be "professional uniforms" in the region and thus exempt from the religious symbols law.

Jahresrückblick 2003 - September

Teacher Fereshta Ludin had sued Baden-Württemberg because she had been banned from wearing a headscarf in school

Germany's highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in September 2003 that Baden-Württemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf in the classroom.

But it said Germany's 16 states could legislate independently to ban religious apparel if it was deemed to unduly influence children, which has subsequently created a patchwork quilt of varying rules throughout the country.

Muslim groups have fiercely criticized the bans as compromising their freedom of religious expression. Germany is home to more than three million Muslims, making Islam the country's third religion.

The German state laws tend stop short of limits set by controversial new legislation in neighboring France which outlaws Islamic headscarves and other religious insignia in state schools outright, applying to both teachers and students.

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