Chaos reigns in the German state of Bavaria just days before a controversial new law comes into effect mandating that a Christian cross be displayed in all state offices. Not only is there great confusion on exactly what constitutes a state office and exactly what form the cross should take, but the Bavarian Interior Ministry has admitted that it won’t be carrying out checks to make sure the order is enforced.
At the end of April, conservative Bavarian premier Markus Söder announced that all government buildings would be required to display the Christian symbol, alleging that “the cross is a fundamental symbol of our Bavarian identity and way of life”. The archbishop of Munich – the state capital – Cardinal Reinhard Marx immediately condemned the move as an “instrumentalization” of a holy symbol, and said Söder was causing “division, unrest and is pitting people against each other”. Marx was later joined in his criticisms by the Bishop of Limburg, Georg Batzing – who lamented the “alienating effect” of the Bavarian order – and by the movement “We are Church”, which denounced that “this overly hasty decision clearly violate the separation of Church and State embedded in our constitution”.
Less than a week before the order comes into force on June 1, it seems Marx, Batzing and “We are Church” were right to criticize the action. The Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper last week found that authorities in the region are implementing the order in a mishmash way at best, with authorities of the police of Upper Swabia or the State Textile and Industrial Museum in Augsburg worried about the fact that they still haven’t received from the Interior Ministry the exact specifications for the implementation of the new law.
“So far we haven’t seen any greater demand for crosses”Other authorities, like Eva Kraus – the director of the Neues Museum in Nuremberg, Söder’s birthplace – have announced directly that they do not intend to follow the order. “It is difficult to up such a symbol in a contemporary institution that deals with the freedom of the arts”, she said. And it seems like Kraus is not the only one, to go by what Tanja Steidle, spokesperson for a local devotional arts distributor, told the Augsburger Allgemeine: “So far we haven’t seen any greater demand for crosses”.
But what is most lamentable: in an interview with the same paper, Bavarian Interior Ministry spokesman Oliver Platzer admitted that implementation guidelines for the order simply don’t exist, and that the Government won’t be checking to make sure the crosses are up.
“Where exactly and which crosses are hung is a decision of the respective authorities”, said Platzer, adding that “we expect that the respective authorities knows the general outline of the procedure and will act accordingly”. “We are happy about every cross that is hung up”, explained the spokesman, explaining that, in the face of doubts about what the Bavarian Government expects, “the authorities should hang up the cross as they think best”.