Article 4: Freedom of faith and conscience

Josef Schuster: A freedom to fight for.

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany
Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Photothek via Getty Images

The Basic Law is an achievement we cannot value highly enough. From the point of view of the religious communities, Article 4 has a very special meaning, because it guarantees freedom of religion.

For historical reasons, however, the significance of Article 4 extends much further from the point of view of the Jewish community. It is worth considering the article in its entirety: "Freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, shall be inviolable. The undisturbed practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No person shall be compelled against his conscience to render military service ...".

The freedom of faith shall be inviolable.

Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 4

The experience of total disenfranchisement and persecution under Nazism solely on the basis of belonging to Judaism is still very present to Jewish families today. The state despotism that prevailed at the time is not for them abstract historical knowledge. No, almost every family has personal memories of suffering in the Shoah.

Sensitivity to the great importance of the inviolability of freedom of faith and religious membership are therefore probably more pronounced in the Jewish community than anywhere else.

We are also well aware of the importance of freedom of conscience, which is also guaranteed in Article 4. Along with Jews, Communists and Social Democrats were among the first victims of the Nazis. Resistance fighters, too, who courageously followed the voice of their conscience, usually paid for this with their lives. Thousands of Jews suffered together with these people in concentration camps. This experience will connect us to them forever.

With great wisdom, the mothers and fathers of the Basic Law stated the importance of fundamental rights at the beginning of the Basic Law. The freedom of faith and conscience occupies a prominent place in the fourth article.

Democrats cannot tolerate that hostility towards Jews and Muslims should become normal.

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

We have to fight for this freedom. Because it does not exist unrestricted in everyday life in Germany. Synagogues must be protected by the police. Jews, who show themselves as such, are attacked in public. Mosques and Muslims are also increasingly exposed to attacks and hostility.

Democrats cannot tolerate that this should become normal. Just as Article 4 guarantees people the unrestricted right not to belong to any religion or not to state their religious denomination, so too the Basic Law guarantees all citizens the right to exercise and live their religion fully.
 

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 4
 

(1) Freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, shall be inviolable.

(2) The undisturbed practice of religion shall be guaranteed.

(3) No person shall be compelled against his conscience to render military service involving the use of arms. Details shall be regulated by a federal law.

 

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany
Dr Josef Schuster has been President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany since 2014. He also holds the office of Vice President of the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress. Schuster is a doctor for internal medicine by profession and is also engaged in the German Red Cross.

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