*Religious Freedom* In Germany? Catholic School Dumps Lesbian Principal
After the head of a kindergarten near Munich announced plans to tie the knot with her girlfriend, her work contract was terminated. LGBT activists (and parents) are outraged.
HOLZKIRCHEN — The sudden termination of the work contract for a lesbian head of a kindergarten in this Bavarian town has sparked widespread criticism. When the woman told her employer at the Catholic-run school of her plans to marry her partner this coming summer, she had to sign a severance agreement.
Though the principal is apparently abiding by a confidentiality agreement, local politicians are taking up her cause. Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of "hypocrisy."
"The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner," Gote says. "These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time."
The mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Loewis of the Christian Social Union, who is a practicing Catholic, also has difficulty accepting the stance his Church has taken towards homosexual relationships.
"I am very familiar with the rules and regulations of the Church as an employer," Loewis says. "And I deem them to be wrong."
(The debate in Germany comes on the heels of controversial new "Religious Freedom" legislation last month in the U.S. state of Indiana that gay and lesbian activists fear would allow private companies to discriminate against employees based on the sexual orientation. )
The Catholic charity Caritas, which runs the school, refers to Article Four of the "fundamental order of ecclesiastical duties in an ecclesiastical setting," with which everyone who works for a religious agency is familiar. This document states that all employees are expected to "recognize and follow the principles of the Catholic faith and ethical teaching." This is considered particularly relevant in the cases of educational and executive personnel.
Indeed these principles are the reason for the termination of contract "in mutual agreement," says a spokesperson for Caritas Munich. A civil partnership constitutes a "break of duties of loyalty." The head of the kindergarten in question had made a conscious decision and "this is the consequence of that decision."
Caritas apparently offered the former head a post that did not entail any educational or executive duties but she refused the offer.
Time to talk
Though the former head has refused to comment on the case publicly, she may have unconsciously sparked a public discussion on the topic when she wrote a letter to the parents of her students in which she clearly stated the reasons for her resignation. The parents are also at a loss to understand the reasons for her having to leave.
Green spokeswoman Gote hopes that this case and the resulting frustration will spark a public social discussion over religious influence in the workplace. "It is high time for it as some things definitely have to change," she says.
Gote said any form of discrimination in the workplace must be outlawed. This is particularly relevant in sectors in which the State is a financial contributor, as is the case with kindergartens. "It would be the State’s prerogative to say that federal not ecclesiastical rules apply," she concludes.