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Germany

*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.

At the Berlin Gay Pride
At the Berlin Gay Pride
Heiner Effern

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. )

Church rules

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.

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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