eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • 29 April 2019 : End-of-life debated in Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court

The German Federal Constitutional Court recently, in mid-April, addressed the issue of end-of-life. Since November 2015, new legislation had expressly banned medically assisted suicide. Paragraph 217 of the German Criminal Code, amended in 2015, specifies : “Any person who intends to help another commit suicide and, in a professional capacity, provides him or her with the opportunity to take action is subject to a maximum prison sentence of three years or a fine.” Professional suicide assistance is now punishable by up to three years in prison, with doctors and professionals from organised suicide assistance facing criminal prosecution. In 2017, though, in a stunning move, the Federal Administrative Court of Leipzig issued a ruling stating that “in exceptional cases, the State cannot prevent a patient from gaining access to anaesthetic products that would allow him to commit suicide in a dignified and pain-free manner.” Faced with the protests sparked by such a decision, particularly from the Catholic and Protestant churches, the federal government ultimately suspended its enforcement in 2018. Since 2015, political and judicial players have been divided, countering each other on the issue of assisted suicide. Doctors, patients and end-of-life care professionals, who believe that paragraph 217 of the Criminal Code violates Sections 1 and 2 of the German Basic Law on “intangible” respect for human “dignity”, have to wit appealed to the German Federal Constitutional Court, in the hopes of enabling incurable people wishing to abridge their suffering to do so with dignity. In a country where the number of people ages 65 or over represented 17.7 million people (i.e. 21.4% of the population) at the end of 2017, this is a sensitive subject that is facing, on the one hand, opposition from the Churches, who are in favour of an expansion of palliative care, and which is causing the ghosts of the past to resurface, as the Nazi regime used euthanasia to kill disabled people. The president of the German Federal Constitutional Court, Andreas Vosskuhle, said at the opening of the proceedings : “The purpose is not to make a moral or political assessment of suicide and its impact on society ... but [to establish] the extent of the freedom limited by the threat of prosecution.” The decision of the Karlsruhe judges is not expected for several months.

See : Ärzte Zeitung, T.Online, L’Obs.

  • 21 April 2019 : On the way to reimbursement of non-invasive prenatal diagnosis by health insurance funds ?

The possible reimbursement of non-invasive prenatal screening (NIPT) for Trisomy 21 is currently being debated in Germany. The German government is considering the reimbursement of NIPT, which can be performed as early as the tenth week of pregnancy from a mother’s blood test, next year, to detect the risk of foetal Trisomy 21. Available commercially in Germany since 2012, already 150,000 blood tests have been sold, at prices ranging from €129 to €299. The Catholic Church and some twenty associations working for the integration of people with Trisomy 21 oppose such a decision, which they believe would lead to the trivialisation of screening tests. They warn of the ethical problems that would arise from widespread screening, namely the establishment of systematic prevention of any genetic abnormality, a greater number of abortions and an increase in social exclusion faced by families who have a child with trisomy 21. The German Protestant Church, for its part, has taken position in favour of the provision of non-invasive prenatal screening for Trisomy 21 by health insurance funds, while also calling for better support for pregnant women : “Non-invasive prenatal diagnosis should only be offered and carried where serious psychosocial and ethical support can be provided”.

See : Der Tagesspiegel, Die Zeit, Gènéthique.

  • 8 January 2019 : A religious tax for Muslims soon to come ?

Several leaders of the German government coalition, made up of Christian Democrats (CDU-CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD), recently declared their support for the introduction of a religious tax for Muslims, also known as the “mosque tax” (Moschee-Steuer), which could be levied by the State, then paid to Islamic associations, modelled on the Church tax (Kirchensteuer) paid by those who declare their belonging to the Catholic Church or the Protestant Church. The latter are not the only ones to benefit from such tax : they are joined by the Orthodox Churches, Jewish communities or even Jehovah’s Witnesses. The introduction of such a tax would aim to limit foreign influences and promote an autonomous German Islam, emancipated from the guardianship and financial support of foreign States. Today, imams exercising their functions in the 900 or so mosques or places of worship run by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) are sent to Germany and paid by the Turkish State. While the majority of political parties seem to endorse the introduction of this tax, the idea seems unrealistic for several reasons : firstly, because Islam in Germany is pluralistic and there is no single federation representing all Muslim movements ; secondly, because it is possible to call oneself a Muslim without being a member of a mosque, hence the difficulty of counting the number of Muslims ; lastly, because the condition for a religious community to be able to levy such a tax is that it be recognised at the level of a Land as a corporation under public law (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts), a status which supposes that the religious community concerned presents guarantees of stability, in particular through its statutes, its duration of existence and a minimum number of members. Currently, though, only the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat community - which presents itself as a Muslim community but is not recognised as such by Muslim orthodoxy - which has about 35,000 members and manages about 50 mosques in Germany, has been granted the status of public law corporation. The German-Turkish lawyer Seyran Ates, the first woman to become an imam in Germany after studying theology, founded a “liberal” mosque in Berlin in June 2017 - open to all currents of Islam, as well as to women and homosexuals - meanwhile defends the idea of limiting influences and funding from abroad, without, however, being in favour of such a tax. Specifically, she does not want the recognition as public law corporations of many Islamic associations which she considers unrepresentative of Muslims and declares herself more in favour of voluntary donations from the Muslim worshippers. Given the many obstacles that remain to be overcome, it would appear indeed that the implementation of this initiative is not for tomorrow.

See : Der Tagesspiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine.

D 29 avril 2019    ASylvie Toscer-Angot

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