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School and religion in the GDR between 1949 and 1989

Though the Basic Law aimed at the democratisation of public teaching, it did not stipulate its secularisation. In the GDR, however, the policy of secularism initiated by the socialist Government covered all the public spheres, including school. Therefore the 1949 Constitution suppressed the religious education from the frequent teaching subjects, allowing the religious communities to teach religion in public facilities only apart from school hours. Since 1967, the religious teaching does not appear in the Constitution any longer and Churches present religion lessons in their own facilities.
When the GDR implements in 1954 the Jugendweihe as an initiation rite of Atheism, the Lutheran Church declared it was incompatible with the Protestant confirmation and asked the youth to pick their side. However, those who did not take part in the Jugendweihe met considerable obstacles either at school or in their professional lives, which means that the opposite strategies of the State and the Lutheran Church forced the youth as well as their parents to make a choice between the studies or the public affirmation of their beliefs and of their belonging to the Lutheran Church.

Source: HENKYS, Reinhard, "Die Kirchen im SED-Staat zwischen Anpassung und Widerstand", in Jürgen WEBER (dir.), Der SED-Staat: Neues über eine vergangene Diktatur. Munich, 1994, p. 203.

D 19 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig AMiriam Schader

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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