Good Friday dancing ban divides Germany′s SPD | News | DW | 19.04.2019
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Good Friday dancing ban divides Germany's SPD

As the song says, you can dance if you want to. But not on Good Friday in Germany, which retains intense restrictions on Easter revelry. It's an annual debate — led this year by two generations of Social Democrats.

Among the things you definitely don't do in Germany on Good Friday ― a day to reflect on Jesus's death ― is dance. The inevitable debate about whether to overturn longstanding laws against dancing over Easter has this year opened up a small schism in the center-left Social Democrat party.

Kevin Kühnert, chairman of the SPD youth wing, said on Thursday that, while he would never start a party in a church on Good Friday, "anyone who wants to go to a nightclub should be able to."

But the 29-year-old leader, who enjoys a rising political profile, drew sharp rebuke from his elders in the party.

"Up until now, I had no idea that the SPD was the party of fun," 75-year-old former speaker of parliament Wolfgang Thierse said. "I joined the SPD because it advocates justice and solidarity, not for the interests of an otherwise highly successful club culture," said Thierse, a member of the Central German Catholic Committee.

As a minor storm brewed on Twitter, Künhert defended his stance on the grounds of the secularism that keeps the church somewhat separate from public life in Germany.

"Many thanks for the numerous unsolicited bible verses and evangelical videos. I'm not against the dance ban because of my lack of religiousness but because I think secularism is an important thing. Sorry!" he responded, concluding with an emoji of a man dancing.

Read more: Good Friday ban on Muslim circumcision parties in Germany raises larger religious questions

Monty Python permitted, behind closed doors

Kühnert's home state of Berlin actually has some of the least strict restrictions across Germany's 16 Bundesländer,  with clubs and music banned from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m..

In states further south such as Bavaria, dancing is forbidden for the entire day on Friday and Saturday, a situation which also has its critics.

"We respect religious customs, but do not want to impose them on anyone," said the pro-business liberal FDP politician Martin Hagen. "Reflection must be possible on holidays, and a visit to the disco as well," he said.

In neighboring Stuttgart, an administrative court allowed the public screening of films including Monty Python's renowned religious spoof The Life of Brian, but only behind closed windows and doors.

Further north in Bochum, a secular group announced it had obtained special permission to screen the cult comedy, and then to hold a dance. The event's name roughly translates as "irreligious in the Ruhr."

While a 2017 YouGov survey found a little over half of Germans favor the bans, that figure had only dropped by one point from 53 percent the previous year. In the 2017 poll, 62 percent of those aged 60 or older were against lifting the party ban.

Read more: Pious German state considers relaxing Easter dancing ban

Generational divide

With Germany's young Fridays for Future climate demonstrations often under fire for skipping class, their protests for this public holiday still have their restrictions.

Some local groups have tried to find their way around religious sensitivities by planning funeral marches for victims of the climate crisis or silent demonstrations.

Many of their elders might find themselves down at a traditional event that doesn't seem to be as racy as dancing ― a car meet of 20,000 fans at the Nürburgring in west Germany, known as "Carfriday" (a pun on the German for Good Friday, Karfreitag), where noise isn't as much of an issue as moving your body to music.

ta/msh (epd, dpa)

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