Constitutional court on holiday protection: a heck of a lot of fun

Dancing as a political protest must be possible. It must not be forbidden in principle on Good Friday, ruled the Federal Constitutional Court.

Christians must live with being confronted with other world views on Good Friday Photo: dpa

Bavaria must relax the strict protection of Good Friday somewhat. Politically and ideologically motivated dance and entertainment events must also be possible on Good Friday, the Federal Constitutional Court has now ruled.

The complaint was filed by the Bund fur Geistesfreiheit, a Bavarian organization with nearly 5,000 members that supports the separation of church and state and criticizes church privileges.

On Good Friday 2007, the freethinkers invited people to the Oberangertheater in Munich under the motto "Heidenspab statt Hollenqual. In their "Religion Free Zone Munich" there was to be an atheist movie night ("Freigeister Cinema"), a chocolate buffet and at the end a "Freigeister Dance" with the rock band "Heilig". As expected, the city banned the final dance event because it violated Bavaria’s public holiday law.

This law designates nine holidays (from Good Friday to Dead Sunday) as "silent days", on which not only stores remain closed, but also sports and entertainment events are generally prohibited. Local authorities may allow exceptions – "but not for Good Friday," according to Bavarian law. That goes too far, the Second Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court has now ruled.

Freedom of assembly is more important

At least for organizers who invoke the freedom of assembly and ideology, it must also be possible to hold entertainment events on Good Friday. So anyone who wants to demonstrate against the ban on dancing on Good Friday for political reasons must also be allowed to dance demonstratively on Good Friday. The Heidenspab party should therefore not have been banned – especially since, as an event in a closed space, it would have caused little disturbance to others.

The constitutional judges used the case to make a fundamental ruling on the protection of holidays in an ideologically neutral state. The state is allowed to designate Christian holidays as public holidays and to define them as "silent days".

However, the state may only provide a "framework" with the holidays, which each citizen can fill himself, either for recreation or for religious edification. The Christian part of the population has no right not to be confronted with other religions or world views on such days. (Case no. /10)