Religious discrimination due to internal church policies

Questions concerning the church-related labour law and religious discrimination in the workplace are answered here.

In Germany, Caritas are (Catholic) and Diakonie (Protestant) sponsors of countless facilities, such as kindergartens, schools, nursing facilities, hospitals and other social services. They have a total of approximately 1.2 million employees and are, after the public administration, the second largest employer is in Germany. The services offered in Catholic or Protestant bodies are usually available for the whole population and have only a limited denominational emphasis. For their social services, such as health care in hospitals and the care of people with disabilities, they receive assistance from the government or from health insurance subsidies, which cover, in most cases, 90 to 100% of the total cost of care. Germany has a strong Christian tradition. 23.4 million people of the German population are members of the Evangelical Church, 24.2 million are members of the Catholic Church, 4 million are Muslims and approximately one-third of the population has no religious affiliation.

When hiring staff for Christian churches, their associated charities and subordinate institutions, the churches can stipulate, through their right of self-determination that they expect a staff member who belongs to a Christian church. In job advertisements of denominational charities, membership in a Christian church is usually formulated as a requirement of a job application. Thereby eliminating the opportunity of these jobs for non-denominational or heterodox people. Professional competence is no longer considered. Here, this appears to be discrimination on religious grounds.  

Caritas and Diakonie have created internal guidelines. In them, they formulate requirements and demands on the life of staff members. Both Directives are based on the principle enshrined in the Constitution, known as "self-determination" of churches. This allows them to arrange and manage their affairs autonomously.  Pursuant to §§ 611 and 241 para. 2 BGB, in principle, every employee is obliged to take into account the rights, legal protection and interests of his employer. Caritas and Diakonie expand their internal guidelines and this general obligation of consideration and require a certain lifestyle from their employees. Thus, the Caritas and Diakonie interfere as employers in the private lives of their employees. The requirements for a certain type of lifestyle are characterized by respective belief.

Leaving the church, a divorce or remarriage, cohabitating or homosexuality and registered partnership can bring an employment relationship into question and an employee can then be terminated.

© Büro zur Umsetzung von Gleichbehandlung e.V. 2011