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Features of Constitution1

Is there a constitution? Yes
Does the constitution provide for freedom of religion? Yes


Constitution Year 1949
Last Amended 2009
Source International Constitutional Law (ICL)
Translation Source is an English translation
Current as of May 11, 2011

Constitution Excerpts (clauses that reference religion)2


Conscious of their responsibility before God and men, moved by the purpose to serve world peace as an equal part in a unified Europe, the German People have adopted, by virtue of their constituent power, this Constitution. The Germans in the States [Länder] of Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia have achieved the unity and freedom of Germany in free self-determination. This Constitution is thus valid for the entire German People.

Article 3 [Equality]

(1) All humans are equal before the law.
(2) Men and women are equal. The state supports the effective realization of equality of women and men and works towards abolishing present disadvantages.
(3) No one may be disadvantaged or favored because of his sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, his faith, or his religious or political opinions. No one may be disadvantaged because of his handicap.

Article 4 [Freedom of faith, of conscience, and of creed]

(1) Freedom of creed, of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or non-religious faith are inviolable.
(2) The undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed.
(3) No one may be compelled against his conscience to render war service involving the use of arms. Details are regulated by a federal statute.

Article 7 [Education]

(1) The entire schooling system stands under the supervision of the state.
(2) Persons entitled to the upbringing of a child have the right to decide whether the child has to attend religion classes.
(3) Religion classes form part of the ordinary curriculum in state schools, except for secular schools. Without prejudice to the state's right of supervision, religious instruction is given in accordance with the tenets of the religious communities. No teacher may be obliged against his will to give religious instruction
(4) The right to establish private schools is guaranteed. Private schools, as a substitute for state schools, require the approval of the state and are subject to the statutes of the States [Länder]. Such approval has to be given where private schools are not inferior to the state schools in their educational aims, their facilities, and the professional training of their teaching staff, and where segregation of pupils according to the means of their parents is not encouraged. Approval has to be withheld where the economic and legal position of the teaching staff is not sufficiently assured.
(5) A private elementary school has to be permitted only where the education authority finds that it serves a special pedagogic interest, or where, on the application of persons entitled to upbringing of children, it is to be established as an interdenominational school or as a school based on a particular religious or non-religious faith and only if a state elementary school of this type does not exist in the commune. (6) Preliminary schools remain abolished.

Article 12a [Liability to military and other service]

(1) Men who have attained the age of eighteen years can be required to serve in the Armed Forces, in the Federal Border Guard, or in a civil defense organization.
(2) A person who refuses, on grounds of conscience, to render war service involving the use of arms can be required to render a substitute service. The duration of such substitute service may not exceed the duration of military service. Details are regulated by a statute which may not interfere with freedom to take a decision based on conscience and which must also provide for the possibility of a substitute service not connected with units of the Armed Forces or of the Federal Border Guard.

Article 33 [Equal political status of all Germans]

(1) Every German has in every State [Land] the same political rights and duties.
(2) Every German is equally eligible for any public office according to his aptitude, qualifications, and professional achievements.
(3) Enjoyment of civil and political rights, eligibility for public office, and rights acquired in the public service are independent of religious denomination. No one may suffer any disadvantage by reason of his adherence or non-adherence to a denomination or to a philosophical persuasion.
(4) The exercise of state authority as a permanent function is, as a rule, entrusted to members of the public service whose status, service and loyalty are governed by public law.
(5) The law of the public service is regulated with due regard to the traditional principles of the professional civil service.

Article 56 [Oath of office]

On assuming his office, the President takes the following oath before the assembled members of the House of Representatives [Bundestag] and the Senate [Bundesrat]:
"I swear that I will dedicate my efforts to the wellbeing of the German people, enhance their benefits, avert harm from them, uphold and defend the Constitution and the statutes of the Federation, fulfill my duties conscientiously, and do justice to all. So help me God."
The oath may also be taken without religious affirmation.

Article 116 [Definition of "a German," re-granting of citizenship]

(1) Unless otherwise provided by statute, a German within the meaning of this Constitution is a person who possesses German citizenship or who has been admitted to the territory of the German Reich within the frontiers of 31 December 1937 as a refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such a person.
(2) Former German citizens who, between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945, were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial or religious grounds, and their descendants, are re-granted German citizenship on application. They are considered as not having been deprived of their German citizenship where they have established their residence in Germany after 8 May 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention.

Article 140 [Law of religious bodies]

The provisions of Articles 136, 137, 138, 139 and 141 of the German Constitution of 11 August 1919 are integral parts of this Constitution.
[ARDA Note: See below for the text of these Articles.]

Relevant 1919 Constitution Clauses (Article 136, 137, 138, 139, and 141, from ICL’s extracts of the 1919 Weimar Constitution)

Article 136

(1) Civil and political rights and duties are neither dependent on nor restricted by the exercise of the freedom of religion.
(2) Enjoyment of civil and political rights and eligibility for public office are independent of religious denomination.
(3) No one is bound to disclose his religious convictions. The authorities have no right to inquire into a person's membership of a religious body except to the extent that rights or duties depend thereon or that a statistical survey ordered by law makes it necessary.
(4) No one may be compelled to perform any religious act or ceremony or to participate in religious exercises or to use a religious form of oath.

Article 137

(1) There is no state church.
(2) Freedom of association to form religious bodies is guaranteed. The union of religious bodies within the territory of the Reich is not subject to any restrictions.
(3) Every religious body regulates and administers its affairs autonomously within the limits of the law valid for all. It confers its offices without the Participation of the state or the civil community.
(4) Religious bodies acquire legal capacity according to the general provisions of civil law.
(5) Religious bodies remain corporate bodies under public law insofar as they have been such heretofore. The other religious bodies are granted like rights upon application, where their constitution and the number of their members offers an assurance of their permanency. Where several such religious bodies under public law unite in one organization, such organization is a corporate body under public law.
(6) Religious bodies that are corporate bodies under public law are entitled to levy taxes in accordance with State [Land] law on the basis of the civil taxation lists.
(7) Associations whose purpose is the common cultivation of a philosophical persuasion have the same status as religious bodies.
(8) Such further regulation as may be required for the implementation of these provisions is a matter for State [Land] legislation.

Article 138

(1) State [Land] contributions to religious bodies, based on law or contract or special legal title, are redeemed by means of State [Land] legislation. The principles for such redemption are established by the Reich.
(2) The right to own property and other rights of religious bodies or associations in respect of their institutions, foundations, and other assets destined for purposes of worship, education or charity are guaranteed.

Article 139

Sunday and the public holidays recognized by the state remain legally protected as days of rest from work and of spiritual edification.

Article 141

To the extent that there exists a need for religious services and spiritual care in the army, in hospitals, prisons, or other public institutions, the religious bodies is permitted to perform religious acts; in this context there is no compulsion of any kind.


1.  Data under the "Features of Constitution" heading are drawn from coding of the U.S. State Department's 2008 International Religious Freedom Reports conducted by researchers at the Association of Religion Data Archives. The article by Brian Grim and Roger Finke describes the coding of the International Religious Freedom reports. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.

2.  The constitutional excerpts shown above are reproduced from the websites given in the "Source" field; the links to these websites were active as of May 2011. Where the constitutional text shown on these websites was provided in a language other than English, this text was translated to English by ARDA staff with assistance from web-based translation utilities such as Google Translate and Yahoo! Babel Fish. Constitutional text was converted to American English where applicable. Constitutional clauses were judged to contain religious content based largely on the standards used in the construction of the Religion and State Constitutions Dataset collected by Jonathan Fox. Emphases were added to the text by ARDA staff to highlight religious content in articles that also contain content that does not pertain to matters of religion. The data on this page were correct to the best of the knowledge of the ARDA as of the date listed in the "Current as of" field shown above. Please contact us at if you are aware of any incorrect information provided on this page.

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