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Top court refuses to hear appeal of Bavarian crucifix law

November 7, 1997

KARLSRUHE, Germany (AP) _ Germany’s top court refused Friday to hear an appeal of a Bavarian court’s decision that allowed crucifixes to hang in public school classrooms in the state.

The Federal Constitutional Court said the challenge to a state law was a matter for the state constitutional court, and it saw no grounds to get involved.

It did not rule on the substance of the state court’s Aug. 1 decision, which held that displaying a cross did not violate the rights of non-Christian students.

The dispute over whether crucifixes belong in Bavarian schools has been going on for 12 years.

The Federal Constitutional Court struck down a state law in 1995 that mandated crosses in public school rooms, sparking massive protest in the conservative, predominantly Roman Catholic state.

State officials responded with a new law requiring crucifixes, but with an exception: the school must remove the cross if a parent raises a ``serious and reasonable″ objection.

A parent filed suit with support of other groups on the grounds that the Christian symbol violated religious freedom. Dietmar Michalke said he successfully petitioned to have the cross removed from his 11-year-old daughter’s classroom last year, but went to court so he wouldn’t have to take up the fight every time she changes classrooms.

Bavaria’s Culture Ministry said only 14 crosses have been removed from classrooms since the law was passed, indicating that most Bavarians are happy with the law.

The top court still has another challenge to the crucifix law pending. This one was brought by a teacher from Guenzburg who objected to having to teach under the cross. He also lost before the state constitutional court and has appealed to the federal court in Karlsruhe.

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