Page last updated at 22:12 GMT, Sunday, 26 April 2009 23:12 UK

Berlin rejects religious lessons

A poster of Pro-Reli action group in front of a church in Berlin
Both sides put up posters around Berlin, many of which were defaced.

A referendum in Germany has failed to give children a choice between classes in secular ethics or religion.

The outcome maintains the status quo of compulsory lessons in secular ethics and voluntary religious studies.

Supporters of the proposal argued that religious lessons would better instil values that could prevent German-born Muslims becoming radicalised.

The low turnout, less than 30%, meant the referendum was invalidated, but most votes were against the proposal.

Change 'divisive'

The referendum was organised by the city's religious communities, including Muslims.

Among those who backed the proposal was Chancellor Angela Merkel, who publicly endorsed the referendum.

Opponents said that any changes to the curriculum would be divisive.

Ethics classes have been compulsory in Berlin schools since 2006. But in most of the rest of Germany pupils have a choice between religion and ethics.

Germany's highest court rejected a challenge to the Berlin arrangement in 2007.

Berlin introduced ethics classes after the "honour" killing of a Muslim woman by her husband, a shocking incident in a city that is often seen as a multicultural success story.

Before the change, children in the city could choose to take voluntary religious education classes, but these were poorly attended.

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