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Historical survey

The Reformation

The development of relations between society and religion in Germany was marked in the 16th century by the Reformation, particularly the Lutheran Reformation. Not only did the Protestant (...)

The development of relations between society and religion in Germany was marked in the 16th century by the Reformation, particularly the Lutheran Reformation. Not only did the Protestant Reformation establish the bi-denominational aspect that characteristics the religious situation to this very day, it also reinforced the political division among the territories of the German Empire. The policy of cuius regio eius religio (“he who rules, his religion”) formulated during the Peace of Augsburg (1555), guaranteed each Prince the freedom to determine whether Lutheranism or Catholicism was to prevail in their lands (ius reformandi - the right to regulate religion in your own state), at the same time subjects were granted the right to emigrate (ius emigrandi). This rule, which constitutes the Sectarian State, was proclaimed in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) after the Wars of Religion of the 17th Century and also applies to the Protestant Reformed Religion. In the Protestant States the autonomy of political power is legitimised by Luther’s theory of the two kingdoms (Zwei-Reiche-Lehre), while the internal organisation of Protestant Churches follows the Catholic model, according to which place of residence determines to which parish or diocese one belongs.

D 10 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig

Towards Secularisation

Under the impact of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the territories were reorganised with the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (1803), particularly through secularisation, that is, (...)

Under the impact of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the territories were reorganised with the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (1803), particularly through secularisation, that is, the loss of the Church’s property. The consequence was the internal dual denomination within political units and the separation between citizenship and religious affiliation. As a result, the Jewish population was granted the right to hold citizenship, a right it had previously been denied. However, the legal status of people belonging to independent Protestant Churches, voluntary associations that developed in the 19th century remained uncertain at the time, Protestant churches continued to function as State churches (Landeskirchen) controlled by the Princes as Summepiscopats. Indeed, the power of the State became stronger and this is evident through the union declared between the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia (1817).

D 19 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig

Prussian Rule

The unification of Germany under Prussian dominion (1871) intensified interdenominational conflict. While Protestantism was associated with German nationalism and imperialism, Catholicism (...)

The unification of Germany under Prussian dominion (1871) intensified interdenominational conflict. While Protestantism was associated with German nationalism and imperialism, Catholicism (representing one-third of the German population) was considered retrograde and disloyal by the political and intellectual elite. The Kulturkampf lead by Bismarck against Catholic ultramontanism and its political manifestation, the Zentrum Party (Centre Party), contributed to the stabilisation of denominational circles which only began to disband in the 20th century, after the sixties. On a legal level, the State officially ended the State Church in 1874 and introduced the Church Tax in 1875.

D 19 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig

Separation of Church and State

The Weimar Constitution (1919) established the separation between Church and State (Art. 137.1: There shall be no State Church...), by recognising individual rights such as religious freedom and (...)

The Weimar Constitution (1919) established the separation between Church and State (Art. 137.1: There shall be no State Church...), by recognising individual rights such as religious freedom and religious equality. However, following the political action taken by conservative forces within Protestant Churches against social-democrat founders of the Republic, as religious societies (Religionsgesellschaften), the former State Churches were granted special status. They were attributed the status of corporations under public law (Körperschaften des öffentlichen Rechts) with an internal legal autonomy, they preserve the right to maintain Faculties of Theology in universities and religious instruction in schools and the State continues to levy Church Taxes. Other Churches and organisations are governed, as religious communities (Religiongemeinschaften), by the law on associations.

D 19 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig

The “Religious Constitution” of 1933

The NSDAP already owed its electoral success during the Weimar Republic to the protestant population. The Nazi regime was openly supported by a fraction of the protestant churches, the “German (...)

The NSDAP already owed its electoral success during the Weimar Republic to the protestant population. The Nazi regime was openly supported by a fraction of the protestant churches, the “German Christian’s Faith Movement” (Glaubensbewegung Deutsche Christen). The Nazi regime cooperated with this fraction by reorganising protestant churches in the Religious Constitution (Reichskirchenverfassung) of 1933. At the same time, the regime concluded a concordat with the Vatican (Reichskonkordat), putting an end to the Zentrum (The Centre Party). In 1934, a minority opposition, known as the « Confessing Church » (Bekennende Kirche), began to form within the Protestant Church against the Nazi regime. This movement also influenced post-war Protestant Theology.

D 19 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig

The “Two Germanys”

After 1945, the States founded on German territory referred to the Weimar Republic where legal relations between the Church and State were concerned. This was true for the Federal Republic of (...)

After 1945, the States founded on German territory referred to the Weimar Republic where legal relations between the Church and State were concerned. This was true for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) whose Basic Law (Grundgesetz) upholds the pertinent articles of the Weimar Constitution (see 3.2), and for the first Constitution of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In West Germany, the Lutheran, Reformed and United Churches that were organised in the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD) and the Catholic Church, whose demographic influence was reinforced by the division of Germany, played an important role in the recognition of the new democracy and the integration of the population (Volkskirchen). Meanwhile, in East Germany, the State had adopted a secular policy, emphasised by the introduction of the Jugendweihe (1954), the elimination of religious articles in the new constitution (1969) and the control over Churches. The Churches reacted by adapting and in part, by opposing the regime.

D 19 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig

The Reunification

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, which occurred due to opposition movements that were able to rally together within the Churches, the GDR and the FRG were reunited (1990). New Länder were (...)

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, which occurred due to opposition movements that were able to rally together within the Churches, the GDR and the FRG were reunited (1990). New Länder were created and they adopted constitutions that were in accordance with the Basic Law and with its religious articles. The Protestant Churches of East Germany were reintegrated in the EKD and the Catholic dioceses into the German Episcopal Conference.

D 19 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig

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