When Olaf Scholz took his oath of office in December, he dispensed with the formula “So help me God”. Scholz is Germany’s first non-denominational chancellor. Half of his cabinet is also not committed to the church, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, like Scholz (both SPD), resigned years ago.

And in a way, the cabinet is in line with the trend. While membership of a church was still the norm 50 years ago, 42 percent of the population in Germany are now non-denominational. If you extrapolate the trend of the past few years, it will be more than half by 2032. The newly founded “Central Council of Non-Religious People” presented these figures on Thursday.

As a merger of 13 secular associations, the Central Council sees itself as a political lobby organization for the interests of people who are not or no longer tied to a church. You cannot become an individual member, the associations themselves represent just 20,000 to 30,000 members. In terms of political attitudes, however, there is greater homogeneity among non-religious people than among Christians, says Philipp Möller, chairman of the Central Council. He relies on polls.

“Soon we will be the absolute majority,” says Möller. “Political majorities will then no longer be found against us, but only with us.” The traffic light government now has a “historic opportunity” to make Germany a country “in which people of all worldviews can live on an equal footing and in a self-determined way “. He sees the basic legal requirements not yet being implemented.

The political agenda of the new Central Council is therefore primarily directed against the Church, which is still perceived as overpowering. Their dominance must be reduced and the voice of the non-religious strengthened, in broadcasting councils, in the ethics council, in state institutions.

Ecclesiastical labor law and the “cartel-like agreements between state and church” should be abolished, as should the collection of church taxes by state tax offices and religious instruction in schools.

If the non-denominational people have their way, the church should also lose its corporate status and organize itself as an association instead. The church bells should no longer be allowed to ring. “If religious communities want to call for prayer, there are ways to do this without shouting at others,” says Möller.

When it comes to legislative projects, the Central Council demands ideological neutrality – a constitutional goal that has still not been consistently implemented. “Christian-motivated laws accompany people’s lives, from the Embryo Protection Act to the obligation to go to a cemetery,” says the Central Council’s guidelines. He pursues a radical liberality, especially in the big ethical questions.

Above all, the legislation on abortion is based on religious dogmas. “This unconstitutional devaluation of women’s rights is justified with an irrational revaluation of the alleged ‘rights’ of germinal vesicles, embryos and early fetuses, which are demonstrably incapable of sentient beings,” says the Central Council’s guidelines. Abortions should be removed from the penal code and the decision should be left to the woman without “compulsory counselling”.

The Central Council also takes a clear position on the subject of euthanasia. After the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court, which overturned the ban on organized suicide assistance in 2020, euthanasia must be completely removed from the criminal code, the Central Council demands. “Helping a person to exercise a fundamental right cannot be punishable.”

How the Bundestag thinks about it will be shown in the autumn when three draft laws on the subject of assisted suicide are voted on. An orientation debate on Wednesday did not produce a clear picture.

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