Over one billion people world-wide are not members of any religion or church (see Encyclopaedia Britannica, demographical data for mid 1998), whilst the number of convinced atheists is estimated at 150 millions. Despite this impressive figure, however, in political life the non-religious and atheists in nearly all countries hardly make an appearance.
In Germany, about one third of the population does not belong to one of the two main churches. Most of these are not members of any religious community at all. Secessions from the church have resulted in a slow, but continually growing increase in people without any denomination. A corresponding increase in their political significance on the other hand is not in sight.
The main Christian churches, however, maintain their unique power even today. Whilst even church members' unconditional belief in Christian doctrines continues to dwindle and religious belief is playing an ever decreasing role in every-day life, not everybody who has become estranged from the church and religious belief finds his/her way to leaving the church. Some recoil from the bureaucratic hurdles placed in the way, e.g. going to the registry office or local court (1. Privileges of the churches, Law and church status). Others might remain a member of the church wrongly assuming that they are making some sort of contribution to the performance of their social duties by paying their church taxes (3. Work and social affairs, Germany). Idleness and a misdirected social sense of duty ensure that the churches continue to maintain a considerable number of members.
The power of the main Christian churches is, of course, not only based on the number of their members. Further pillars of the power of the churches include their monopoly in social affairs, their immense property possessions, the church tax privilege as well as huge amounts of money going from the state to the churches, a religious education that is recognized as a regular subject of the curriculum, a variety of internal publishing organs and with them the means to exert influence over the other media. Church-orientated politicians of many parties are transferring the influence of the churches into state politics.
The rights and interests of the non-religious and atheists continue to be cut back or ignored again and again. Our state's duty of philosophical and religious neutrality is disregarded.
The Internationaler Bund der Konfessionslosen und Atheisten e. V. (International League of Non-Religious and Atheists; IBKA) wants to contribute to the more efficient representation of the political interests of the non-religious, agnostics and atheists. Therefore we are striving for the development of IBKA into a strong interest group for the non-religious, agnostics and atheists supporting human rights, rational thinking, individual self-determination (5. Self-determination) and tolerance.
The general human rights IBKA is concerned with are the "inalienable individual rights of each human being" (IBKA by-laws). This means: Each individual has the inalienable right to personally exercise all of his or her human rights.
For IBKA, human rights are not merely rights of freedom, but also social rights. IBKA regards it to be every society's duty to create the conditions required to enable each individual to exercise his or her rights and to develop his or her personality.
Incompatible with IBKA's aims are folkish and racist ideologies, anti-Semitism and hostility to foreigners.
Naturally, IBKA particularly focuses on the human right of religious freedom, or in more general terms, on "the philosophical freedom as the freedom to - either publicly or privately - profess one's religious or non-religious views or to refrain from doing so" (IBKA by-laws).
The unconditional implementation of this philosophical freedom requires that the state exercises its philosophical/religious neutrality: no human being shall be given preference over or be discriminated against on the grounds of his or her religious or non-religious views, and no religious or philosophical community shall be given preference over or discriminated against by the state.
A close cohesion between the state and churches and other religious communities jeopardizes the philosophical/religious neutrality of the state. Therefore IBKA demands the consistent separation of state and churches, of state and religious and philosophical communities.
A further problem is that the churches are a major employer in the so-called social sector (nursery schools, hospitals, homes for the aged or disabled, advice centres...; 3. Work and social affairs). For this reason, IBKA for some time now has accepted extraordinary members who, for economical or social reasons, are forced to belong to a religious community against their convictions; we call this "forced confessionalization".
The activities of IBKA focus on three main areas:
For IBKA, religions as ideologies of empty promises referring to the hereafter, and the churches as their organs, are among those social powers aimed at preventing humane conditions of life and repressing the creative mind working towards the realization of those conditions.
The International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (IBKA) wants to make the public more aware of this problematic area and promote its discussion in public.
This theoretical discussion leads to practical demands, duties and consequences.
Each chapter of this Political Guide is followed by the respective demands of IBKA.
This Political Guide of International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (IBKA) was adopted on October 15, 2000. It was amended on September 27, 2003 and on October 10, 2005. Translated from German in co-operation with Cornelia Boltz. Copyright 2001-2005 IBKA e. V.
State law shall not give preference to any religious community over other organizations. Neither shall religious groups be allowed to bind others to their values with the help of state laws.
What IBKA demands:
The German judiciary displays ecclesiastical-clerical influences. The Concordat of the German Reich from 1933 and the state concordats (Länderkonkordate) define the relationship between state and church in Germany. They are contradictory to the principle of the separation of church and state. As rehards the Catholic sphere, areas they were entered into on the basis of canon law, the Corpus Iuris Canonici (CIC). Quite evidently, some court judgements were made according to ancient ecclesiastical law. This includes judgements in connection with the "blasphemy clause" (Section 166, German Penal Code), the abortion clause (Section 218, German Penal Code), judgements regarding school prayer and church tax as well as judgements of industrial tribunals under the so-called Right of Tendency clause [Tendenzschutzparagraph; Tendenzschutz means that in media, and in other companies, which besides their economic interests (primarily) pursue intellectual or philosophical objectives (= Tendenz), the rights of the works councils are restricted. The lawmaker justifies this restriction with the supposedly necessary protection of the civil rights and liberties (i.e. freedom of the press) of those, who pursue the intellectual and philosophical objectives of the company; the translator].
Prevailing public jurisprudence undermines the principle of separation of state and church by referring to legal sources, particularly the constitutions of the Länder (Land / plural: Länder: any of the federal states of Germany) and ecclesiastical treaties (concordats), that are subordinate to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. "Federal law shall take precedence over Land law" is stated in Article 31 of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG). Crucifixes in courts indicate further that the constitutional provision of the separation of state and church is far from complete within the judiciary.
Incompatible with the provision of philosophical-religious neutrality of the state is the privilege that is granted to full-time clergymen and students of theology: Unlike other citizens, they can be exempt or deferred from military service or the alternative community service.
An important privilege of the churches and other religious and philosophical communities in Germany is defined in the German Constitution: They can be or become a "corporation under public law" (Article 137 of the Weimar Constitution of the German Reich (Weimarer Reichsverfassung) from 1919, which, according to Article 140 GG, forms part of the German Constitution).
This privilege is a relic from the times of the state church, when the church was covered by public law and was granted privileges from, but at the same time dominated by, the state. This status of a public-law body is contradictory to the state's obligation of religious and philosophical neutrality. In addition, these privileged religious organizations and philosophical communities do not meet one single defining characteristic required by a corporation under public law.
In Germany, the status of a "corporation under public law" results in a close cohesion between state and church. It influences the regulations of the beginning and the termination of church membership. These regulations appear to be explicitly aimed at securing the churches a large number of members. In Germany one becomes a member of the church by being christened, usually as a baby, without one's consent. Leaving the church, on the other hand, requires quite a lot of energy: In most German states this is done through a personal declaration at the local court or registry office. Employees will then have to have their wage tax card adjusted accordingly, for which purpose they have to call on the issuing authority.
Christians (by certificate of baptism) whose church membership has nothing to do with their convictions whatsoever are still listed in public certificates and statistics and are being used by the churches as the basis for their status as the "strongest socially relevant group" and their claims for public subsidies and opportunities of influence.
Not least by paying their church taxes, these "church members by certificate of baptism" play an important role in the funding of the churches. Even those are expected to pay who, as minors, were "christened into the church" without giving their consent, based only on an agreement between their parents and the church. Putting an end to this imposed church membership is only possible by officially leaving the church.
During the last few years, leaving the church has been made even more difficult in some Länder: The person leaving is charged a fee (in 2001, the leader was Baden-Württemberg charging 50 euros). In IBKA's opinion, this fee is a violation of the German Basic Law. Pursuant to the German law on non-profit associations (Vereinsrecht) alone, non-profit associations are not permitted to charge a leaving fee, because this would constitute an "inadmissible impediment to withdrawal". What applies to a non-profit association should certainly apply to a religious community: after all, the right to leave a religious community is part of the human right of religious freedom1. The status of "public law corporation" has an effect on the collection of church tax: Those religious organizations who are corporations under public law have the right to levy taxes based on the civil lists of tax assessments in accordance with the provisions of the law of the Länder." (Article 137 paragraph 6 of the Weimar Constitution). Based on this provision, a practice has developed in Germany that carries the involvement of state and churches even further than as defined by this provision:
The state has taken on the responsibility of collecting the membership contributions on behalf of the two main Christian churches in the form of the so-called church tax - in 1992, this amounted to an equivalent of approx. 8 billion euros! The great financial power of the churches in Germany stems primarily from the above. As far as salaried employees are concerned, employers are obliged to carry out accounting with respect to the collection of the church tax free of charge. The constitutional principle that nobody has to reveal his or her philosophical views is being disregarded in favour of the collection of church tax. Employers find out their employees' confession and public authorities get information on the religious profession of the citizens administered by them.
By collecting church taxes the state gets involved in the dubious methods of financing the churches. Thus, a number of Länder has introduced a law about a "special Kirchgeld (church contribution) for married couples of different creeds": If only one of the married couple is a member of a church and the church member earns considerably less than the non-member, they have to pay a Kirchgeld according to the income of the main earner - this being the income of somebody who is not a member of the church at all.
What IBKA demands for Germany:
In Germany, the state is not only involved in the financing of the churches by collecting the church tax. The churches also receive additional income and benefits from the government budget, i. e. out of the pockets of all taxpayers, including the non-religious and members of religious minorities.
This is based on the alleged obligation to compensate the churches for lost assets through the so-called secularization. These payments take the form of state pensions paid to the churches out of taxes from both Christian and non-Christian citizens in Germany. What has not been taken into account so far is the fact that before "secularization" (1803) the churches appropriated themselves assets in the order of billions (according to today's assessment) by illegal or legally questionable means (e.g. confiscating the assets of "witches" and victims of the inquisition, forging certificates of possession, legacy hunting by taking advantage of people's fear of the purgatory). For this reason alone, those state subsidies based on "secularization" shall be withdrawn without replacement. The Christian churches, on the other hand, have hardly ever compensated their victims. For no other group, let alone individuals, does the state recognize claims for compensation after such long periods of time. In view of payments from public funds for almost two centuries any claims which might have existed were paid for a long time ago.
In addition the churches are granted subsidies from public funds (e.g. contributions to building cost from the Federal government, the Länder and local authorities) in the order of billions as well as further millions through blanket benefits from the Länder, including even the funding of church events (such as church congresses, ecumenical celebrations, etc.). Often, these benefits are dynamically adjusted from one year to the next, occasionally even unnoticed by the parliamentary controlling bodies. The question why - despite a constitutional provision for the discontinuance of state benefits based on ancient titles - the Basic Law of a state claiming philosophical-religious neutrality should permit the establishment of state benefits also remains unclear.
Equally incompatible with the philosophical-religious neutrality of the state are its contributions towards the funding of religious instruction - be it the funding of Theological Faculties or the funding of religious education in state schools (2. Youth and education).
Further unjustified financial contributions by the state are
justified by Article 141 of the Weimar Constitution of the German
Reich from 1919 which, according to Article 140 GG, forms part of
the German Basic Law:
To the extent that a need exists for
religious services and pastoral work in the army, in hospitals, in
prisons, or in other public institutions, religious societies shall
be permitted to provide them, but without compulsion of any
The state-organized and state-funded pastoral care in the army and prisons through clergymen with permanent civil-servant status, however, goes far beyond the above "permission". Thus, a responsibility of the church was turned into a responsibility of the state, contrary to the prohibition of any institutional link between state and church.
An alliance of church and military in Germany is no less evident than throughout the entire history of the church.
Ever since the Reichskonkordat (concordat between church and the German Reich), which was entered into by the Hitler government in 1933 and continues to be legally valid in Germany, there has been state-organized pastoral care for the military services: The churches provide the clergymen who, just like with the entire personnel of the military church administration, are paid for by the state. As civil servants of the Federal Republic of Germany, the clergymen are subordinate to military leadership.
They have to teach the so-called Lebenskundlicher Unterricht (lessons on the theory of life) which is part of the troops' regular service programme. With regard to the Protestant church in Germany, the Treaty on Pastoral Care for Military Personnel which came into force in 1957 provides for a similar regulation. This is an institutional violation of the constitutional provision for the separation of state and religion.
What IBKA demands for Germany:
Kirchenaustrittsgebühren (fees for leaving the church): How some Länder hinder secession from church, available on the Web from www.ibka.org/artikel/ag00/gebuehr.html
Children and adolescents are entitled to develop their capability to independently designing their lives. It is the responsibility of parents, nursery schools and schools to create the right conditions for this.
In order to develop the ability of philosophical and religious self-determination, young people need the opportunity, in accordance with their mental maturity, to hear different opinions, not just their parents' opinions.
Schools offer the opportunity to reach a large number of young people, to impart information and to encourage discussion. It is important to make use of this opportunity: to offer young people a variety of information on different concepts of a successful life, on desirable ways of dealing with each other and on ethics as well as information on different philosophies and religions, on different interpretations of important philosophies and religions and on the criticism of philosophies and religions. And to encourage young people to think about all these things and to talk to each other. The larger the number of different views the better. By discussing and dealing with people with different views, children and adolescents practice important skills required for living in a pluralistic society.
All this is prevented if children and adolescents are separated according to their creeds: in an elective mandatory subject range of religious/ethical education as it exists in most German Länder; and certainly in denominational schools. Instead of talking to each other they talk about each other.
Denominational schools and nursery schools are relics from the days of religious feuds. They discourage from learning how to live with, and tolerate, each other. Furthermore, confessional schools, where the confession dominates the entire curriculum, negatively affect the religious freedom of older students whose convictions have ceased to coincide with their school's denomination, for the alternative, that is, to change schools will certainly be a hardship for many of them. Therefore, denominational schools do not deserve any financial support by the state.
In state schools, there is no room for religious education that is supposed to convey the doctrines of a certain religion or denomination as "existing truth"; like the state, these schools are obliged to be religiously-philosophically neutral. This kind of religious education is out of place there just as party-political propaganda would be.
The above applies to both Christian and Islamic religious education. IBKA does not support the occasional demand for the introduction of Islamic religious education in order to counter-balance Islamic fundamentalism. Instead, IBKA proposes neutral classes in religious and philosophical theory for all students in a class. Such classes can provide alternatives to fundamentalism, too.
What IBKA demands:
In some Länder, the violation of the philosophical-religious neutrality of the state goes particularly far: The constitutions and school laws of some Länder provide that not only religious education, but all education must be given in a Christian spirit. Particularly in the Länder of South Germany, and here extremely in primary, general secondary (Hauptschule) and special needs schools which are openly maintained as "Christian inter-denominational schools", Christian traditions continue to be institutionally embodied. In practice, the Christian inter-denominational schools have proven to be bi-denominational-ecumenical schools.
And that, even though, as early as in 1975, the Federal Constitutional Court, in varying decisions referring to Christian inter-denominational schools in the German states of Bavaria and Baden, had unambiguously held that any Christian missionary work during general classes was a violation of the German Basic Law. Hence, for instance the Bavarian ministry for education and cultural affairs quite openly violated the German Basic Law, and not for the first time, when on December 6th,1988, it announced the "guiding principles for teaching and education according to common principles of Christian denominations at primary, general secondary and special needs schools", which had been jointly prepared by the Roman-Catholic and Protestant church, and declared these binding on all teachers. The constitutional mandate to treat all citizens equally is as significantly violated by the above as by the firm grip of the main churches on the public education system. Non-religious persons and those of other confessions are thus at a clear disadvantage.
Most Länder introduced a compulsory "replacement" subject for students not attending religious education, called, for example, "Ethics" or "Values and Norms". Where religious freedom exists, there cannot be an obligation to attend religious education - and consequently, there cannot be an obligation on the part of those who do not attend religious lessons to accept an alternative. The fact that through this compulsory ethical education, children of non-Christian parents are defamed as being in need of extra tuition in morals/ethics is an absolutely wanted side-effect.
The Christian politicians responsible for the introduction of ethical education have unequivocally declared again and again, in words and in writing, that the introduction of the "replacement" subject is meant to counteract exercising a constitutional right which is most unwelcome to them, namely, the right not to attend religious education classes.
What IBKA demands for Germany:
Religious instruction should not be paid for out of the pockets of taxpayers and thus of the non-religious and those of other creeds. Religious instruction teachers in state schools should not be paid by the state. Equally improper is the state funding of their training at theological faculties and other institutions not committed to the freedom of science, research and education.
Conflicts between religious norms and a self-determined lifestyle exist particularly in the area of sexuality. With reference to religious norms, children and adolescents are still prevented from developing their own sexuality. This happens especially where Christian, particularly Roman-Catholic, thought determines education. The right of children and adolescents to develop their own personality is severely thus restricted.
It is the responsibility of nursery schools and schools to help children and adolescents develop a self-determined sexuality by providing appropriate sex education, and that even against the parents' will, if necessary.
What IBKA demands:
Theological faculties in state colleges and universities are as out of place as is religious education in state schools. The do not only violate the principle of philosophical-religious neutrality but also the principle of the freedom of science, research and education (Article 5 GG). Theology, in its core, is unscientific: It demands belief for its central doctrines and rejects genuinely scientific verification, i.e. an examination that does not shrink away from potential falsification. If, nevertheless, a theologian dares to examine a central doctrine with serious scientific methods and subsequently announces his/her conclusion that in his/her opinion the doctrine is incorrect, he/she must be prepared for difficulties. Thus Dr. Gerd Lüdemann, professor of theology, had to accept severe restrictions of his working possibilities University of Göttingen.
The church influence over state colleges and universities is not limited to theological faculties. In some German Länder, the churches are even entitled to participate in the appointments to professorships ("Konkordatslehrstühle" -"concordat professorships") outside the theological faculties (e. g. philosophy, educational science, sociology).
To what extent the autonomy of higher education can become a farce, is demonstrated by cases where professors were supposed to be reprimanded for their critical attitude towards the churches (examples are: Küng, Drewermann, Ranke-Heinemann, Voss and the case of the philosopher Max Bense who was reprimanded), or cases where church-orientated professors were forced on a university.
As unscientific as theology is in its core: even in theological faculties there are areas where research was or is done in compliance with scientific standards. This research deserves to be maintained and continued in church-independent disciplines (the science of history, cultural science, religious studies, psychology of religion, sociology of religion, etc.). The history of the Jewish-Christian religion is important for the understanding of European history, and therefore, it is not only of interest for followers of this religion.
What IBKA demands:
IBKA wants everybody to be able to lead a self-determined life. This includes sufficient social welfare during illness, old age and disability as well as equal opportunities in the job market, independent of one's religion or philosophy. Adequate welfare benefits that are provided by religiously and philosophically neutral social facilities must be safeguarded. Society must not evade its responsibility by leaving social affairs to churches or other institutions with religious affinities.
IBKA is opposed to compulsory "social service", because this constitutes a disproportionate infringement of the civil rights of young people. The costs of social welfare must be carried by the entire society.
Demands and aims of IBKA:
In Germany, the Christian churches are the second largest employer behind the public service. Particularly with regard to social affairs, the churches hold a dominant position. The social commitment of the churches praised so many times by so many people is by no means unselfish, but is a vital contribution to the safeguarding of their own position within society.
On the one hand, the churches gain considerable reputation and prestige by their social activities, even though they only bear a fraction of the expenses incurred.
On the other hand, the churches are able to directly utilize their position in the field of social affairs to exercise their influence over society - at the expense of those with no, or another, religion and of the entire society. Thus, the employees of church institutions have less rights than other employees. Any activity violating the principles of the respective church (this includes the private life) can lead to dismissal. Such activities include leaving the church, getting remarried after divorce or expressing an opinion that is contradictory to the opinion of the church. This not only affects people who turn their back on the church, but those who criticize the church from within can also be dismissed.
This discrimination against church employees results from the special right of tendency (Tendenzschutz) granted to church institutions by prevailing jurisdiction. These include those institutions that are not of religious character or committed to "spreading the word of God", which results in far-reaching restrictions of civic rights. The fact that the churches do not always consistently exercise the privileges granted to them through the right of tendency, for instance in cases of shortage of labour with particular qualifications, does not alter the above.
Furthermore, looking after the interests of employees via a trade union representation is opposed to in a more uncompromising manner than in nearly all other business enterprises. Works councils are not permitted; instead the churches organize the "involvement of their employees" through so-called staff representations. Members of trade unions are discriminated against and frequently disciplined. Thus, a church-based social institution has successfully claimed the right - against its own staff representatives - to generally deny access to the facilities of the church to any union representatives invited by the former. Arguing that any employment relationship with the church actually is a "service community", the churches generally contest that there might exist any conflict of interest between employers and employees and even derive therefrom a claim for an overall prohibition of strike.
The dominant position of the churches in the social sector in many areas secures the churches a real employment and education monopoly in many regions. Non-religious people who want to take up a social profession are virtually subject to a professional disbarment. But even in areas where there is no monopoly in the strictest sense, the job perspectives of non-religious people in the social sector are considerably restricted.
In many regions of Germany, people in need of help owing to serious illness, disability or old age are confronted with the fact that nearly all institutions they can turn to for support are church institutions. Whether it is a welfare center for domestic care, an aged people's home or a home for disabled children - those looking for help must in all cases rely on the care of church-affiliated personnel in religious institutions. It is difficult to assess how many people refrain from turning their back on the church owing to this circumstance alone. What must also be mentioned is the fact that even today aged people are urged to leave their assets to church institutions.
Whilst pastoral care by the churches is amply provided for in social and other facilities, the same cannot be said of psychological care. IBKA demands that sufficient religiously-philosophically neutral help be provided to people with mental/psychological difficulties.
What is more is that non-religious people are often accused of profiting from the social services provided by the church, while, on the other hand, they withdraw from the 'solidarity community' by leaving the church. It must be noted, however, that church tax is a membership contribution to a religious community. It displays a considerable confusion of terminology when, in the course of public discussion, this is passed off as a social contribution, thus carrying the connection of religion and philosophy on the one hand and social responsibilities on the other to extremes.
Attempts to deamand excessive payments from the non-religious are not rare, for example, by charging higher fees to non-religious parents whose children attend a church-run nursery school.
The dominant position of the churches in the social sector was embodied in the law in 1961, by the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) who were in power at that time with an absolute majority; namely by establishing the so-called principle of subsidiarity in the social sector. According to this principle, independent bodies are to be given preference over public bodies. By doing so, the state has actually left the social sector to the churches, thus neglecting its social responsibility and philosophical neutrality. The claim that, owing to the social commitment of the churches, the state saves money, is grossly deceptive: The (small) financial contribution by the church is counterbalanced by tax losses and both direct and indirect subsidies of billions of euros (1. The privileges of the churches). Although the main churches only bear a small part of the expenses themselves, they are allowed to manage their own affairs mostly as they please. The existing structures of the welfare system - as this is the case in many other areas - support the institutional reinforcement of an ideology that would otherwise hardly be supported by society.
By ecclesiastical societies acting as providers of social services, the churches secure themselves maximum state funding, while simultaneously minimizing their expenses without having to waive privileges such as the above mentioned right of tendency. By referring to their allegedly restricted financial means, the churches constantly strive for further reducing their own contributions to the funding of social facilities.
What IBKA demands for Germany:
The churches pursue an active media policy, to both secure themselves a broad platform for the dissemination of their own ideology in the public and limit critical reporting on the churches.
In the radio and television stations under public law, the main Christian churches enjoy a number of privileges. Not only does their presence in broadcasting councils allow them to exert their influence on programme planning, they are also allocated broadcasting times for programmes supporting the spreading of the "gospel", which they are free to organize as they please (transmission of church services, "Sunday Address" ["Wort zum Sonntag"]).
Apart from that, the (formally independent) church broadcasting departments transmit contributions presented as editorials, which are not identified as originating from the church in the previews. Existing inter-state agreements for broadcasting corporations (Rundfunkstaatsverträge) further entitle them to free broadcasting time at the private stations. For these programme windows, specific programmes are designed by professional broadcasting departments (e.g. KiP - Katholische Kirche im privaten Rundfunk = The Catholic Church in Private Radio), which, beyond the above, provide contributions regarding a variety of religious and church-related topics dealt with from the churches' point of view.
The offensive part of this media strategy pursued by the churches includes - and this is particularly true for the Catholic church - the development of their own production companies, which produce anything but just religious contributions. By entering the programme segment of entertainment (e.g. the crime series Schwarz greift ein), the churches have also become an economic factor in the media environment, that is, ideological and economic interests are mixed up.
On the other hand, the clergy continuously works towards topics that critically deal with the church being dropped from the programmes or pushed to unfavourable transmission times and the responsible reporters being intimidated. There is quite a number of examples of programmes completed that were not broadcast.
Also in the publishing world, the churches hold a key position, despite a decrease in print-runs; they operate a large number of publishing houses or influence the production of these through their capital interest. The result is a regular flood of Christian publications, from the daily newspaper through the weeklies and parish magazines to Christian "edificational" literature, and many of these are co-funded by public means.
And what is more, with the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons, the churches are provided an instrument for the enforcement of their own moral concept by means of indexing certain books.
What IBKA demands:
Individual self-determination plays an important role amongst IBKA's aims in accordance with its by-laws. Such self-determination is limited by the rights of others and by our responsibility to future generations.
The term "individual" self-determination is not an expression of disdain for interpersonal contacts and solidarity. Rather, the addition of "individual" shall make it clear that IBKA distances itself from the concept of a "collective right of self-determination" for cultural groups, i.e. a "right" to impose the cultural norms of the group on all group members, thus disregarding the individual rights of individual group members. IBKA makes a stand for the individual: his/her individual self-determination must be asserted even against tradition and religious or philosophical norms.
Free choice regarding philosophical issues is an essential element of self-determination. It gos without saying that, to IBKA this is of special significance. Self-determination also includes the freedom to design one's own life according to one's own views and wishes. This freedom shall not be put in jeopardy by churches and other religious communities aiming to bind the entire society to their values based on religion.
Human rights apply to children, too. Children, however, are not able to exercise their human rights just from the beginning of their lives. Later in life, children might do harm to themselves or others by unconsidered exercise of their rights; for example, a child might waste his or her property, thus in the long term depriving him/herself of the opportunity to utilize such property in his/her own interest. For such reasons, the rights of children to make legally valid decisions may be restricted to some extent and conferred on others. In particular to parents who, in many constitutions and documents on human rights, are granted far-reaching rights to decide on the way to raise their children.
The parents' right to bring up a child is no excuse for an arbitrary use of power. On the contrary, parents have a duty to consider their children's concerns. This includes the following: "While looking after, and raising, a child, the parents shall take into account the child's growing ability and growing needs to act independently and responsibly. As far as such is advisable considering the stage of development of the child, they shall discuss with the child issues of parental care, and strive for agreement, with the child." This is a how German law correctly defines the duty of parents (Section 1626 para. 2 German Civil Code).
In a philosophically-religiously neutral state parents are entitled to decide on the philosophical or religious concept which their children are to be familiarized with from their early age. Parents have the right to introduce their children to these concepts themselves or to use the facilities provided by philosophical or religious communities, i.e. the respective philosophical or religious education.
However, parents do not have the right to raise their children in an artificially created intellectual mono-culture keeping away from them everything that does not correspond with their religious or philosophical views. Children and adolescents have the right to develop their ability to make their own decisions with regard to philosophy and religion. They have the right to be provided a variety of stimuli (2. Youth and education).
With regard to the philosophical education of their child, parents are not entitled to ignore the child's wishes and convictions as they please. They do not have the right to impose religious acts on their children. If the parents' and child's opinions differ, the parents are obliged to search for a solution together with the child that takes into account the child's interest.
Religious acts claiming to be valid throughout the entire life of the child, such as the christening of infants and children, represent a problem. They are performed on babies who have never expressed the desire to be christened and on children whose agreement is not based on an independent decision but on the trusting adoption of their parents' religious views.
The philosophically-religiously neutral state cannot refuse parents the right to perform such religious acts on their children. This does not excuse parents from asking themselves whether they can justify to their children that they have anticipated his/her decisions and authorized an irrevocable religious act before the child has had the opportunity to give serious thought to the pros and cons of such in order to reach an independent decision. One day their child might come to adopt views that are diametrically opposed to such religious act. He/she might then see it as a burden that he/she was christened as a baby without having been asked first. Or perhaps he/she was asked first but far too early in life to be able to counter the parents' influence with an independent view.
What IBKA demands:
All human beings have a right to health. The right to freedom from bodily harm is the logical consequence of this human right. Unfortunately, this right is violated far too often on religious grounds.
One of the worst violations of this right is the genital mutilation of girls and women that is quite common in some areas of Africa. This "circumcision" is often performed without the use of anaesthetics and without taking even the most basic measures of hygiene. It can lead to death or to serious health problems. All of the "circumcized" girls and women are to a great extent deprived of their ability to enjoy sexual pleasure.
By contrast, the effect of circumcision of the foreskin of boys, as practiced in Islam, Judaism and countries with Christian-Puritan character (for example: the USA) has a rather limited effect. However: If this type of circumcision is not necessary or advisable for medical reasons (phimosis), but is performed merely on religious grounds, it constitutes a violation of the rights of children: of children who are circumcized without giving their consent; of children who were forced to give their consent; and of children who, through massive religious influence were made give their consent.
Parents who deny their children necessary, even vital medical measures (for example: exchange transfusion) disregard their children's right to life and health.
Religious education can have devastating effects on the psychic health of children and young people. It can lead to the development of anxieties, such as fear of divine punishment or excessive fear of even the slightest failure. Religious education can lead to feelings of inferiority and guilt for no reason at all or not in proportion to the cause. Much damage results from religious taboos with regard to sexuality, such as the banning of masturbation.
Religion-induced psychic illness may result in physical illness. Children and adolescents need to be protected against psychic and psycho-somatic damage whether caused by religious or by profane circumstances.
But although modern societies generally have instruments in place to fairly protect children against being harmed by their parents' wrong educational measures, detrimental practices of religious education are generally tolerated owing to a misguided interpretation of religious freedom. The courts even shrink back from uncompromisingly applying the relevant laws inasmuch as religious practices are concerned.
What IBKA demands:
Each human being has the right to arrange his/her sexual behaviour according to his/her wishes, as far as this does not violate other people's rights. This should be a matter of course. However, the view that certain forms of sexuality are morally inferior even if they do not violate anybody else's rights, still exists.
Christian religion supports such views: The Old Testament calls homosexual intercourse between men an "abomination" that requires the death penalty (Leviticus = 3 Moses 20:13). In the New Testament, Paul calls homosexual intercourse ""unnatural", "shameful" and a "perversion" (Romans 1:26-27). The Roman-Catholic church still holds the view that a homosexual act is "in itself not in order", preaching "chastity" to the homosexual (Catechism of the Roman-Catholic church, paragraph 2357-2359).
IBKA opposes such views. They must not influence either public opinion or legislation.
Frequently, discrimination shows by homosexual couples being denied the opportunity to acquire the rights of married couples. To some couples, these rights are very important, because they want to put into practice their desire to live together. One example from Germany: Only if married can an employee terminate his/her employment in order to follow their partner without losing their claim to unemployment benefits for twelve weeks. For people who want to follow their partner to another country, this option of "following a spouse" is often the only way to make authorities to fulfill their wish.
The right to live with a loved one is an important element of self-determination. It is therefore important that no couple be wilfully denied this right.
What IBKA demands:
Prostitutes still suffer from a society that is partly characterized by Christian moral values who take out their aversion to prostitution on prostitutes. Prostitutes are held in contempt, they are denied rights and social security. This inflicts an injustice on prostitutes they have not deserved.
Adults practising prostitution on their own accord are exercising their right to self-determination. Any coercion of a prostitute on the other hand constitutes a serious restriction of self-determination.
What IBKA demands:
If and when a child should be born is one of the most important questions in the life of every woman and her family. Therefore, self-determination in family planning is one of the most important aspects of self-determination.
Whilst family planning is successfully practiced in richer countries, there is a serious lack of it in poorer countries. In these countries, even today many children are born, although their parents would have preferred not to have a child or not to have another child at that time. But there is a lack of education and of effective contraception, not least owing to the ominous influence of churches and other religious communities.
In pursuing their objectives, churches and religions readily accept the mass impoverishment resulting from this prevention of family planning. An impoverished, uneducated population makes it much easier for the churches to anchor religious and ecclesiastical hierarchies in people's minds.
What IBKA demands:
Even the best contraception cannot prevent every unwanted pregnancy. Therefore it is important that pregnant women be able to determine whether they want to continue their pregnancy or terminate it.
Counselling of pregnant women in conflict situations may be a welcome and useful service for women with unwanted pregnancies. In Germany this was made compulsory: If a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy she has to previously attend counselling session at a recognized advice center for unwanted pregnancies (Schwangerschaftskonfliktberatungsstelle). Without a certificate issued by this counselling center, legal termination of the pregnancy is not possible.
What IBKA demands for Germany:
IBKA opposes any compulsory service whatsoever. This particularly means that no one shall be forced into compulsory service that goes against his/her conscience.
Objecting to military service for reasons of conscience is a human right. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has recognized the right of each individual to object to military service for reasons of conscience (source: Document of the conference meeting of the Human Dimension CSCE in Copenhagen, no. 18).
The right to follow one's own conscience in such vital question applies to atheists and Christians alike, to the non-religious as well as the religious.
What IBKA demands:
Modern medicine is able to keep people alive for a very long time, even in cases of the most serious impairments to health. This is not always cause of joy. People are often frightened by the idea of having to lay helplessly in bed for many months, leading a life that has become totally meaningless to them. They are afraid of pain and other tormenting physical problems.
The same modern medicine can ease pain and physical problems. It can also help people who no longer want to live, to die in a humane manner.
Through the options available in modern medicine, self-determination in the last phase of life has become more important than ever.
However, these options are not always used in the patient's interest. All too often, people wanting to die because their life has become a burden to them, are left to their own devices by medicine. Active help in dying is refused, as sometimes is so-called "passive help in dying", i.e. the termination or omission of life-preserving measures. People who want to terminate their own life do not find any medical support and are sometimes even prevented from doing so.
This compulsion to live is caused by people trying to force their own values onto others with the support of the state; be it their own panic fear of death, or their Christian views, according to which all suffering is ordained by god and human life is unimpeachable. These views are still supported by a number of powerful members of the Christian church.
The ban on active help in dying is often supported by the argument that the murders performed on the physically and mentally disabled in the Third Reich - euphemistically called "euthanasia" - must never happen again. This disregards the fact that to help somebody who has chosen to die on his/her own accord cannot be compared with the killing of human beings who want to live.
What IBKA demands:
Deficiencies in the fight against pain constitute a problem, especially in Germany. Excessive fears of drug abuse have resulted in laws that make use of highly effective painkillers very difficult. This particularly applies to opiates, although morphine, in properly measured doses, is not addictive. The use of cannabis products to ease the pain of the seriously ill has also encountered legal impediments.
What IBKA demands for Germany: