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German high court: headscarf ban applies to Christian nuns

[JURIST] Germany's highest administrative court has ruled that the Baden-Wurttemberg [official website] region's ban on Muslim teachers wearing headscarves also requires Christian nuns, who teach extensively in the predominantly Catholic region, to remove their habits before entering the classroom. The full text from the Federal Administrative Court [official website] ruling is not yet available, but BBC News, citing an advance copy of tomorrow's Der Spiegel, quotes it as saying that "exceptions for certain forms of religiously motivated clothing in certain regions are out of the question."

Headscarves have been the topic of fierce debate in Germany since teacher Fereshta Ludin [Pluralism Project backgrounder] filed suit after being denied a job in Stuttgart in 1998. Ludin argued that the German constitution guaranteed her right to wear the headscarf. The federal Constitutional Court [official website] ruled in September 2003 that under then-current laws, she was correct, but it also noted that individual states could pass laws banning the headwear. In April 2004, Baden-Wurttemberg's parliament [official website] passed a ban almost unanimously. Law professor Ferdinand Kirchhof [official website, in German], author of the legislation, said the nuns' habits were "professional uniforms" and so not subject to the ban.

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