Volume 2, Issue 3 (Originally Published 6 August 2012)
August 6, 2009 – German High Court upholds sex education
On this day in 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany handed down decision upholding a law requiring mandatory sex education in all public primary schools.
The plaintiffs, Baptist parents Willi and Anna Dojan, did not want their children to participate in sex education classes held for grade 4 pupils at their local primary school. Initially, they objected to the content in the textbook to be used during the classes – namely, they considered some diagrams ‘partly pornographic’ and ‘contrary to Christian sexual ethics’ (i.e. abstaining from sexual intercourse until matrimony) – and requested that their children be exempt from the classes. The school denied the request, stating that classes were mandatory for all students regardless of religious backgrounds or beliefs, pursuant to federal law. The Dojans subsequently kept their children at home in protest. They were issued with a fine of 75 euros each for not letting their children attend school.
The Dojans joined with other religious parents in the district who refused to send their children to sex education classes, filing a suit of unconstitutionality by infringement of freedom of religion in the Paderborn District Court. The Court held that freedom of religion was not an absolute right, and was restricted by the State’s right to legislate with respect to education. In particular, it was wholly within the scope of the State’s mandate to provide educational services ‘with a view to providing children with tools to find help in difficult situations’, referring to the classes dealing with sexual assault and abuse. A subsequent appeal by the plaintiffs was also dismissed.
Following this, the Federal Constitutional Court also rejected an application for leave to appeal. It underlined that the State had every right to ‘pursue its own educational goals’ as long as it did so in a neutral and tolerant manner. Nonetheless, the parents continued to prevent their children from attending school, which ultimately resulted in an imprisonment sentence of 43 days. In a last ditch attempt, the plaintiffs complained to the European Court of Human Rights in 2011. In Dojan & Others v Germany, the Court unanimously declared the application inadmissible.