Second German State Bans Headscarf

Lower Saxony became the second German state to ban Muslim public school teachers from wearing headscarves after regional deputies voted in a new law to that effect yesterday.

The state Parliament dominated by a coalition of the conservative Christian Democratic Union and the liberal Free Democrats pushed through the vote, with support from the Social Democrat opposition.

On April 1, the legislature in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg voted almost unanimously for a similar law, which goes into effect this month.

Germany’s highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in September that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim female 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.

Six states have put forward draft laws banning headscarves or other religious symbols in public institutions.

Muslim groups have fiercely criticized the ban as compromising their freedom of religious expression. Germany is home to around three million Muslims, making Islam the country’s third religion, after Roman Catholicism and Protestant denominations.