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Christian cross
The Catholic Church can make its own hiring and firing rulesImage: dpa - Bildarchiv

Holy law

September 9, 2011

A German court has reaffirmed the principle that Catholic institutions can fire employees for breaking church laws, such as marriage vows. These laws, however, must be applied fairly through a transparent process.


Catholic-affiliated institutions have the right - in principle - to fire employees for breaking church rules regarding marriage, according to a judgment issued by the Federal Labor Court in Erfurt on Thursday.

The ruling came after a Catholic hospital in the west German city of Dusseldorf fired a doctor for marrying a second time. In that specific case, however, the labor court made an exception and ordered that the doctor be reinstated.

In their ruling, the judges said the doctor's firing was illegitimate because the hospital had issued equal work contracts to Catholic and Protestant employees but did not fire Protestants for cases of divorce and remarriage.

The hospital also failed to issue a warning to the doctor after it learned he was living with his partner outside of marriage, according to the court.

Churches in Germany are allowed to use their own rules for hiring and firing according to principles enshrined in the country's Basic Law, equivalent to a constitution.

The secular courts are not allowed to decide whether or not Catholic Church principles are legitimate, only if they are applied fairly and not arbitrarily.

Author: Spencer Kimball (KNA , dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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