Not a lot of people know this, but every Germany state has ‘holiday laws’ that prevent people from partying – or showing films that are not approved by the state – on religious holidays.
That such silly laws still exist came to the world’s attention when Martin Budich, above, the organiser of a group called Religious Freedom in the Ruhr, decided to publicly screen Monty Python’s 1979 comedy classic Life of Brian on Good Friday in the western city of Bochum.
That screening, according to The Local, took place for the first time three years ago. A few dozen people turned up to watch the film which pokes fun at the biblical story of the Messiah. Budich repeated the screening on subsequent Good Fridays, and each year his audience grew. The “very naughty boy” said:
This year we hired out the biggest club in Bochum and after half an hour we had around 400 people watching. Next year it will be bigger still – and more provocative.
“Provocative” is the operative word. After the first screening, Budich found himself at odds with the law and was fined 100 euros for the simple act of showing a film which is rated suitable for children in most countries.
After the High Court in North Rhine-Westphalia upheld a ruling from a lower court that imposed the fine on Budich, it was reported that Budich is to appeal the decision in the Federal Constitutional Court, which will now have to consider whether the prohibition of showing the movie was in breach of his constitutional rights.
The 66-year-old told The Local that, when it comes to the relationship between Church and State, Germany sometimes feels:
A bit more like Saudi Arabia than other countries that went through the Enlightenment. That non-Christians in Germany are told that they are not allowed to have fun on Christian holidays is pretty notable.
He added adding that the “holiday laws” are:
Just the tip of the iceberg. Nowhere [in Europe] is the Church so privileged as it is here.
And he citing the examples of the state collecting taxes on behalf of the Church and the obligation for state schools to provide religious education classes.
So while he sees his Life of Brian protest as a means of helping the people of Bochum to watch whatever films they want, when they want and how they want, he also hopes it will help folk in Berlin dance the night away and perhaps eventually lead to an end to Church privileges.
The film itself he sees as a perfect analogy for this struggle.
Life of Brian is against dogmatism. It is against unquestioning obedience to leadership. The Catholic Church is sexist, dogmatic and authoritarian. [But] Germany recognises the Vatican as a state even though it is a dictatorship in the classical sense of the word.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn