German Court Rules Headscarf Ban Must Apply To Nuns

A German court has ruled that a regional ban on Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in public schools must also apply to Christian nuns.

According to the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, the Federal Administrative Court had ruled that a law passed in April in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg was unfair because it only applied to Muslim women yet permitted Christian symbols.

Following the controversial ruling, nuns, who often work in public schools in the predominantly Roman Catholic Black Forest region of the state, will now be required to remove their habits before entering the classroom.

"Exceptions for certain forms of religiously motivated clothing in certain regions are out of the question," the federal judges of the court based in Leipzig, eastern Germany, wrote in their ruling as quoted by Der Spiegel in an advance copy of Monday's issue.

Ferdinand Kirchhof, a professor of law and the author of the state legislation, told Der Spiegel that nuns' habits were considered to be "professional uniforms" in the region and thus exempt from the religious symbols law.

Germany's highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in September 2003 that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf in the classroom. However, it said Germany's 16 states could legislate independently to ban religious apparel if it was deemed to unduly influence children, which has subsequently created a patchwork quilt of varying rules throughout the country.