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3. Work and social affairs

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:

  • To establish and promote philosophically-religiously neutral social facilities, including training centers for social professions.
  • Equal opportunities for all citizens (including the non-religious and atheists) regarding access to training and employment within the entire educational and social area.
  • No state subsidies for facilities which discriminate against job applicants, employees, or users for reasons of religion, e.g., because of their membership or non-membership in a certain religious community, because of secession from the Church, because of their sexual orientation, because of marriage (e.g. after a divorce), because of a civil union and/or because of legitimate exercising the freedom of opinion.
  • Preferential treatment for the purpose of counterbalancing religiously motivated actual discrimination is not to be regarded as "discrimination" against those not profiting from such preferential treatment. This is no reason to deny state subsidies.
  • All church institutions, unless they are concerned with strictly church-internal affairs, shall be subject to generally accepted labour law. Institutions that do not subject themselves to labour law shall not receive any public funding.
  • Compulsory social services must not be newly established, existing ones shall be abolished.

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:

  • To ensure the comprehensive provision of social services through religiously-philosophically neutral social facilities.
  • To abolish the principle of subsidiarity in its present form. As far as a comprehensive provision of social services through religiously-philosophically neutral social facilities does not exist, philosophically-religiously neutral bodies shall be given preference over church bodies and/or, if necessary, the state itself shall provide such facilities.
  • To safeguard sufficient religiously-philosophically independent care by psychologists in social facilities.