Tuesday, 5 June 2018

German politics and the Christian cross

Crosses on chains are offered in a devotional objects shop 
in Munich, southern Germany, on June 1, 2018. (AFP)
The government of Bavaria has decided to instruct 
all state administrative buildings in the German state 
to display a cross in their public entrances by June 1.
A controversial decree requiring Christian crucifixes to be installed at entrances of most public buildings in Bavaria came into force on Friday, sparking accusations of identity politics ahead of elections in the southern German state.

Markus Soeder, Bavaria's conservative state premier, had initiated the measure in April, saying "the cross is a fundamental symbol of our Bavarian identity and way of life."
But the order sparked an outcry, with critics accusing Soeder of politicising a religious symbol as his CSU party battles to claw back voters who have turned to the far-right and Islamophobic AfD ahead of state election in October.
"Soeder has misused the cross for an election manoeuvre," the region's Social Democrat chief Natascha Kohnen told the Augsburger Allgemeine daily.
Soeder was also widely mocked, including by the state premier of neighbouring Baden-Wuerttemburg, Winfried Kretschmann, who said a photo of his Bavarian colleague holding the cross made him "think of a vampire film."
But among the harshest condemnations was that from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German Bishops' Conference, who warned Soeder that "if the cross is viewed only as a cultural symbol, then it has not been understood."
"Then the cross is being expropriated by the state," said Marx in an interview with Sueddeutsche daily, adding that it must not be used as a tool to exclude.
Amid the push-back, Soeder's office had sought to tone down the decree, saying that while it was compulsory for buildings like police stations, courts or ministry offices, it was merely recommended for higher educational institutions, museums and theatres.

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