Christian Crosses Must Hang in Government Buildings, German Politician Orders

Bavaria, a state in southern Germany, has ordered that Christian crosses be placed at the entrance of all public buildings in order to represent the region's "identity and Christian values." The new directive will begin in all state buildings on June 1.

"The cross is a fundamental symbol of our Bavarian identity and way of life," Markus Söder, Bavaria's president, said in a statement Tuesday, arguing that the cross does not violate constitutional laws on religious neutrality. "It stands for elemental values such as charity, human dignity and tolerance," he continued.

Germany does not have a strict separation between church and state like the United States does, but the principle of religious neutrality in German law means that the government cannot favor or discriminate against certain religions. Some legal experts argued that the new directive could be a violation of the law because the state should be neutral in regards to religious expression. Crosses are already hung in all of Bavaria's public schools and courtrooms, however.

Opponents of the decision accused the conservative ruling Christian Social Union party of attempting to use identity politics to win favor ahead of elections in October. In recent years, Germany has seen an uptick in support for far-right parties that also claim to support Christian values.

The CSU is the Bavarian branch of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which has faced a strong challenge from the anti-Islam, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Recently, Söder attempted to mimic some of the AFD's anti-Islam election rhetoric.

"For anyone who believes that Islam or even Sharia belongs to our country, I can only say they have nothing to do with Bavaria's cultural heritage," Söder said during the region's annual political gathering, which is celebrated on Ash Wednesday.

Bavaria is a majority Christian state with one of the highest numbers of Catholics in Germany. According to data from 2016, a little over half of the population of Bavaria is Roman Catholic.

Christian Crosses Must Hang in Government Buildings, German Politician Orders | World