Germany court ends ban on Islamic headscarves for teachers

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A veiled woman reads a book in front of shelves at the stand of Macedonia at the Leipzig Book Fair, 18 March 2010Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The headscarf ban for teachers was introduced in 2004

Germany's highest court has struck down a ban on headscarves for state school teachers as unconstitutional.

The court ruled that a 2004 ban violated religious freedom.

The case was brought by two female Muslim teachers who had previously been forced to wear alternative head dress.

The ban was imposed on the grounds that headscarves could lead to disruption in classrooms and prompt questions about a teacher's neutrality. Christian symbols were exempt from the ban.

On Friday, the court ruled that schools will now need to show "not only an abstract but a sufficiently specific risk" to justify a ban on the earlier grounds.

It also decided that a clause exempting "Christian and Western educational and cultural values or traditions" from the ban was discriminatory.

In a statement, the Federal Constitutional Court said a "blanket ban on religious expression... based on the outward appearance of educators" was incompatible with religious freedoms.

The teachers originally brought the case against a local law in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Other states across the country also ban teachers from wearing headscarves, but this ruling strikes out those laws as well.