Citizens of Berlin, Germany, have voted overwhelmingly to defeat a referendum that would give public school students the choice between taking religion or ethics classes.
It’s a choice that students in Germany’s 16 federal states have. They receive instruction according to their Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or Muslim faith. Those not belonging to any religious group can choose ethics.
But Berlin, where six out of 10 residents claim not to practice any religion, has been different. Since 2006, secular ethics became a requirement, while religion became an optional course.
The “Pro-Reli” lobby, supported by both Catholic and Protestant churches, the Central Council of Jews, a Turkish Muslim umbrella body and other community groups, pushed voters to change the system so students would have a choice. They argued greater knowledge of religion fosters greater tolerance.
But opponents of the April 26 referendum said that religion classes, with each faith taught separately, deepens divisions between religious groups.