According to Markus Söder, the premier of Bavaria, “the cross is a fundamental symbol of (our) Bavarian identity and way of life”. That’s why his cabinet ordered that Christian crosses be fixed in the entrance halls of all public buildings. It was previously not uncommon to see crosses in Bavarian government buildings, but they weren’t mandatory. That changes on June 1, when the new decree goes into effect, Patheos reports.
It should be seen as a cultural rather than a religious symbol, added Söder of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The premier’s explanation is that there’s no church-state entanglement here because the idea is to declare cultural, not religious dominance. He sees the crosses as “a clear commitment to our Bavarian identity and Christian values” which is obviously contradictory to previous explanation and gives the cross its previous religious role.
According to the German news site watson.de,
The regulation applies exclusively to the offices of the [Bavarian] State, not to buildings of the municipalities and the Federal government in Bavaria. The state government has no power over these.
In any case, Söder hurried from the meeting where the matter was decided and he even personally hung a cross on a wall of the State Chancellery in Munich, proudly saying that the object was a personal gift from former Cardinal Friedrich Wetter and that it had even been officially consecrated by His Eminence.
This move has sparked uproar immediately. Critics pointed out Germany’s constitutional separation of church and state, while some religious leaders charged Söder was playing politics with a sacred symbol. The Social-Democrats’ state chair Uli Grötsch said, not unreasonably, that he wants Bavaria to be “a home for all, regardless of belief.” The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, said that “we Muslims have no problem with the cross” or the appreciation of religion in society, but added that “the state’s neutrality should always be respected”.
The cross is certainly a religious symbol and that is its essence. Such a move by the premier Markus Söder is obviously an act of endorsing specific religion, in this case, Christianity.
Tarek Carls, a student leader at the University of Regensburg, told a local radio station yesterday that “civil disobedience” could ensue if any crosses make it into college buildings under the government’s initiative.
“We just will not hang these things,” he said referring to Christian crosses.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons