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Society

Freedom of Religious Worship

Freedom of religion is enshrined in the German Basic Law, while the religious landscape is marked by increasing plurality.
Islam
In Germany the Basic Law guarantees religious freedom; there are more than 2,000 mosques © Boris Roessler/dpa

The religious landscape in Germany is shaped by increasing plurality and secularisation. 53 percent of the German population confesses to one of the two major Christian faiths, organised in the 27 Catholic dioceses and German Bishops’ Conference and the Protestant regional churches under the umbrella organisation Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The Catholic Church, with around 23 million members in 11,500 parishes, is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church headed by the Pope. The EKD is a community of 20 independent evangelical regional churches of the Lutheran, Reformed, and United confessions. With around 21.1 million members, they encompass the majority of Protestant Christians. About 37.8 percent of the population does not profess to a particular faith.

Religious affiliation in Germany 2018 (in million)

Source: Destatis, Pew Research Center

As a consequence of the ageing membership and high levels of people leaving the Christian churches, the number of believers is falling. In 2018 alone, 309,000 people left the Catholic Church alone. The Evangelical Church reported 395,000 persons less than in the prior year. The low number of believers in east Germany is particularly striking.

Islam is gaining in significance for religious life owing to migration. There are an estimated 5 million Muslims in Germany from 50 different nations, but there is no central survey. Significant Muslim communities have formed in many cities. The German Islam Conference (DIK) established in 2006 provides an official framework for ­interaction between Muslims and the German state.

Jewish life in Germany, which was entirely destroyed after the Holocaust, has been revived since the end of the Cold War thanks to migrants from the former USSR. Today around 200,000 Jews live in Germany. Around 96,000 of them are organised in 105 Jewish communities, which have a broad religious spectrum and are represented by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, founded in 1950.

Germany has no state church. The basis of the relationship between state and religion is the freedom of religion enshrined in the Basic Law, the separation of church and state in the sense of the state’s religious neutrality and the right to self-determination of the religious communities. The state and religious communities co­operate on a joint basis. The state helps fin­ance nurseries and schools sponsored by religious communities, while churches levy a church tax, collected by the state, to fin­ance social services. Schools must offer religious studies as a regular subject (limited in Berlin and Bremen). Islamic religious instruction is currently being expanded. Additional teachers are being trained in order to offer Muslim children and young people who go to school in Germany religious instruction.