Officially called the Free State of Bavaria, Bavaria is Germany’s largest state making up 20% of Germany’s land mass. With a population of 13 million it is Germany’s second largest state. With its state capital in Munich, Bavaria also has Germany’s second largest economy.
Bavarians are very conscious of their identity with many considering themselves Bavarian first and Germans second. With 75% of Bavarians calling themselves Christian (over 50% Catholic), many consider it Germany’s most conservative state.
And recently, the Bavarian government passed legislation mandating that all state offices prominently display a cross in their public areas. Before this law was passed, crosses were required in court rooms and schools. The new legislation will not affect municipal governments or Germany’s federal government buildings in the state.
It even has an official name “Kreuzpflicht or “cross duty.” According to Christian Social Unions (CSU), the state’s ruling party, the law is intended to recognize the Bavaria’s cultural heritage.
Premier Markus Soder said these crosses should not be looked upon as a religious symbol, but a recognition of the Christian heritage that helped build Germany and western civilization.
Soder leads the state version of the same party that rules Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel.
CSU has ruled Bavaria for 50 years. However, its dominance is now being threatened by political parties, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD), that are rapidly gaining strength opposing Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policy that has resulted in over one million immigrants, largely Muslim, coming into Germany since 2015.
With Bavaria being Germany’s southern most state, it has faced the brunt of this immigration.
With AfD’s growing popularity in Bavaria, Soder has even began separating himself from Merkel’s immigration policies. With state elections this fall, many believe Soder’s cross policy is trying to regain votes. In response, AfD accused Soder of using the cross as a “political accessory.”
The churches in Bavaria have come down on both sides of the issue. According to CBN, Bavarian Archbishop Ludwig Schick responded positively to the decision on Twitter stating:
“Christians are happy when they see the cross. In the cross is healing, in the cross is life, in the cross is hope.”
However, the Daily Mail said that some Christian leaders are not happy about the move. They called it lip service because CSU refuses to protect conservative values in the state.
Burhand Moser, a priest working at Wuerzburg University, expressed his opposition in an “open letter” to Soder stating:
“Many see as a provocation and a hypocrisy the way you speak of Christianity. Stop this misuse of Christianity and its symbols as a supposed bulwark against Islam.”