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Berlin school to allow Muslim student to praycomment (0)

October 15, 2009

BERLIN — German religious freedom laws require a school to let a devout Muslim student set aside some time during the school day for prayers, a Berlin court ruled Sept. 29.

The ruling reaffirmed a temporary order from 2008 that requires the school to allow the student time to engage in prayer at least once a day — but not during class time.

The case involves a 16-year-old student at a university-track high school in central Berlin who asked for space and time for regular prayers, as prescribed by his faith. The school had originally denied his request until the court’s 2008 intervention.

The court ruled that a student’s religious freedom is not limited to his ability to believe or not, but also requires that the student have the opportunity to follow practices mandated by his faith, such as prayers.

The student had argued that he had already compromised with the school by limiting the number of prayers during the school day to one instead of five. Since the student was requesting prayer time that did not interfere with classroom instruction, the court decided that the prayers must be allowed.

The school had argued it could not make special religious dispensations for students since government facilities must not provide special favors to any one group. But the court said this only applied to organized activities that encouraged involvement of the entire student body, not individual acts of faith.

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