Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Judge sentencing refugee who threatened to kill a Christian convert removes Cross from court

Judge removes crucifix permanently from his courtroom
A Bavarian judge was required to judge a suspected Islamist. He decides to remove the cross from the courtroom. The "educational measure" triggers criticism - also at a political level.

For a case against a young asylum seeker from Afghanistan, a judge has taken down the Cross in the courtroom. The 21-year-old had to answer in court because he is said to have threatened an Afghan compatriot with death, because this person has become a Christian and went to church on Sunday. The district court Miesbach in Bavaria confirmed the process.

Politicians are outraged, the judge reaching angry phone calls and emails. But he lets the criticism rebound. And even goes one step further: He announces that he will not hang the Cross again in the future.

The Miesbach judge, Klaus-Jürgen Schmidt, told the Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR). On the one hand, religious symbols are generally not required in the courtroom. On the other hand, he saw the Cross as unhelpful in the trial.

He thought, "How do I educate a young man who is claimed to deny this Christian the right to live and that is a Taliban, to refrain from believing that a jihad exists between Christians and Islamists?", Schmidt said. For that he had thought it sensible not to condemn him under the visible Cross. The clear message: In Germany, religion is not above the law of the world and not above the judiciary.

Bavaria's former Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber (CSU) took a critical view of the matter: "Whoever threatens someone with death because this person has become a Christian, should be able to see the Cross in his eye," he told the "Bild" newspaper. "I think the taking down of the cross is a false signal," said the politician. Deputy Bavarian Prime Minister, Ilse Aigner (CSU) described the procedure as "highly insensitive to the feelings of the victims," according to the newspaper.

Schmidt told the BR that he was also accused of abandoning a "cultural-religious symbol of sovereignty". In addition, he would already be blamed for future actions of the man. The critics would not consider that he had considered the man for the maximum penalty. The prosecutor's office had demanded far less.

Legally, the case is clear. The judge has used a margin of discretion. Unlike in school, there is no legal provision in Bavaria obliging the judiciary to place crosses in meeting rooms. The fact that crucifixes are usually there is "an expression of the Christian tradition of our state," explained the spokesman for the Ministry of Justice.

Cross does not violate state neutrality
Since when this is so, he did not wish to say. However, the presence of the Crosses does not violate the obligation of state neutrality. Nobody, neither visitors nor witnesses, trial representatives or parties to the dispute, has to "identify with the ideas or institutions symbolically embodied therein". According to the Federal Constitutional Court, each judge can have themselves remove the Cross if those involved in the trial see their freedom of belief impaired.

In the future Schmidt wants to do without the Cross in the courtroom. The judiciary is independent of religions. In addition, it was planned to amend the Bavarian Judicial Law to the effect that neither cross nor headscarf should be worn by judges in the trial. Therefore, he considered the Cross in the courtroom inappropriate. According to "Bild" it has already found a new place: "I will hang it up in the corridor now," said Schmidt.

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