How do I overcome religious indoctrination

Problematic religious fundamentalism and the best interests of the child under German law

In recent years, the Bavarian youth authorities have repeatedly been confronted with child welfare violations as well as violations of child and youth protection laws, which can be assigned to problematic Christian fundamentalism. The best-known negative effects of certain fundamentalist circles and communities on the well-being of children are discussed here using the example of the topics of chastisement and indexing of writings that are harmful to children and young people, which are relevant to youth welfare. These circles, communities and movements see their religious roots more in the Protestant tradition and an avowed departure from the Catholic churches. Corresponding phenomena in the Roman Catholic area, such as those from Beinert, Wolfgang et al.1 should therefore not be discussed here.

In order to determine “typically fundamentalist” characteristics from the point of view of youth welfare, it is of secondary importance whether they are Catholic “traditionalists”, “evangelical” Christians, members of “free churches”, “conservative” members of the regional churches or supporters of “ Special communities ”or“ sects ”with a Christian background. The state's requirement of neutrality must here fully comply with the basic right of religious freedom, and the state guardianship, as it is a.o. is assigned to the youth authorities, has to act only if other basic rights are restricted or violated. However, every child and every young person - like every adult German citizen - has a full right to the protection of his or her basic rights as set out in the Basic Law, the Constitution and specific individual laws. If these rights are violated, the legal term “child welfare” comes into play in youth welfare. The best interests of the child are the yardstick against which, in case of doubt, the actual, concrete effects of religiously or ideologically motivated attitudes and actions can be examined. In practice, this can range from encroaching on parental custody right up to criminal penalties in cases of severe abuse or neglect of the wards according to
Section 225 of the Criminal Code.

1. History and definitions of Protestant fundamentalism with a special focus on the "country of origin" USA

The name Protestantism goes back to the (political) "Speyer Protestation" of the Protestant estates at the Reichstag in Speyer in 1529. Even then, this political protest referred to the individual's freedom of belief.

In the period that followed, Protestants in the narrower sense included the members of the Christian denominations, who were able to assert themselves against the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century, first in Germany and Switzerland and then especially in Central and Northern Europe.

Later, for example, the Anglican Church in the United States called itself "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" ​​after the declaration of independence. Furthermore, the Protestant free churches are to be assigned to Protestantism.

The 2014 annual report on religious freedom in the Federal Republic of Germany published by the US State Department on October 14, 2015 includes the Evangelical Church (defined as the union of the Lutheran, Uniate Evangelical and Evangelical Reformed Church) and the New Apostolic Church in “Section I. Religious Demography” , the Baptist congregations (Evangelical Christian Baptists, International Baptist Convention, Reformed Baptists, Bible Baptists and others) and the Evangelical Free Church Baptists to the protestant Confessional communities in Germany.

From this overall area of ​​Protestantism worldwide, the problematic fundamentalist Protestantism as an example of religious fundamentalism in general will be treated in the following - clearly distinguished.

Fundamentalism and Modernity

According to Thomas Meyer, the Christian religion today is characterized by the processing of its own history and historicity, which became inevitable since the beginning of historical-critical biblical studies in the 1830s. "With the instruments of text criticism, which have since been refined to the utmost by scientific hermeneutics, the times and circumstances of the individual texts of the Christian Scriptures could be clarified largely and clearly enough to irrevocably invalidate the traditionalist assumption of the direct divine origin of each of their sentences. "2

Anti-modernist fundamentalists, on the other hand, shy away from liberal, scientifically argued theology like the devil shy away from holy water. Holy Scripture only tells the enlightened believer what he can understand historically and what he can interpret as meaningful from his personal experience. "Modernized religion is the consequence of the Copernican turn which Luther accomplished when he made the individual his own priest and the individual faith the ultimate authority for religious claims."3

For the emergence of (especially US-American) Protestant fundamentalism, Meyer et al. the refusal to modernize his supporters responsible. The fact that “provincial” refusals of modernization were and are often actually “modernization losers” is probably one of the most effective reasons for creating “fundamentalism” of all stripes worldwide. Protestant fundamentalism also responds to the crisis-ridden modern age with endeavors that appeal to sacred texts in order to establish a different society or at least to survive the feared apocalypse unharmed.

Original American fundamentalism can best be characterized as a conservative Protestant rallying movement. Their minimum consensus consists of the "five fundamentals". The most important point is the consistent understanding of the Bible as the “Word of God”, which consequently should not be interpreted symbolically but literally. The other four beliefs relate to the virgin birth, bodily resurrection, vicarious atonement, and the physical return of Christ. The common theological front stands against the modern biblical criticism of liberal theology. On the other hand, social reform approaches that focus on egalitarian aspects of early Christianity and the Christian's social responsibility are rejected. It is dogmatically persisted in an individualistically oriented position.4

The new social order or the new life i. Protestant fundamentalism was and can only be achieved on this basis by turning back to premodern, supposedly still orthodox times and community structures. As a `patriarchal protest movement` (Martin Riesebroth) he invokes divine law to take action against contemporary liberalization. Modernity, with its opportunities and ambivalences, is declared to be a betrayal of tradition and thus a general threat to religious and cultural identity as a comprehensive enemy.5 The threat to this identity is supposed to come from modern phenomena such as the various "liberation movements" (sexual morality, laissez-fair principle, etc.), the ecumenical movement, critical biblical exegesis, evolution theory, "socialism", secular humanism , the "Enlightenment" and, above all, the "decline of the family".

Social psychology of fundamentalist biographies and authoritarian leadership structures

The (social) psychology of the fundamentalist “church structure” and its members can only be sketched out here. For example, as part of the research projects of the German Bundestag's study commission “So-called sects and psychogroups” (1996-98), a “typification of Christian fundamentalist biographies” was carried out. The confluence, career, whereabouts and exit of corresponding interview partners (dropouts, converts and convinced) from milieus and organizations with a Christian fundamentalist character were examined. The different approaches and adaptations that stand out are divided into three typifications: The “tradition-led type” (1) is characterized by family or milieu-related monocultural religiosity and accepts this insertion as a good fate or divine providence. On the other hand, in the case of the “mono-convert” (2) a family religious socialization is not recognizable or insignificant, and nevertheless or precisely because of this he subscribes to a certain religious orientation “once and for all in his life”, which at the same time is a decision against the previous worldview means. In the case of the “accumulative heretic” (3), a familial religious socialization is also (hardly) recognizable, but he prefers open religious milieus, which he uses to select what is acceptable to him through a selective selection from different religious and spiritual traditions. S. of a search movement.6

If people, in particular of types (1) and (2), meet problematic, absorbing fundamentalists, this can lead to a “fit” and intense personal ties to corresponding circles or communities. The search for support, orientation or coping with personal crises can v. a. lead in people who believe in authority to dependency or even subservience to power-conscious “charismatic” leaders.

Patriarchal-authoritarian community and family structures can be recognized by religiously based power structures that refer, for example, to the strict submission of men to “the will of God”, the subordination of women to the will of men and the subordination of children to their parents. Psychodynamically speaking, an abuse of such defined authority in problematic fundamentalist circles lives from the abuse of the weaker members' pious willingness to give themselves.
According to Hempelmann v. a. to critisize:


  • ­Orientation towards charismatic leaders can prevent coming of age and adulthood in faith,
  • the appeal to the Bible and the Holy Spirit can be functionalized for problematic striving for power and dominance,
  • the increased sense of mission of a group can turn into an elitist self-image that is sharply demarcated from the outside, essentially lives from enemy images and sees God's Spirit only working within its own ranks. "7

Abuse of power and tendency to violence

Such zeal for faith, which refers to the biblical command to give orders, consequently makes a religious dialogue impossible. Corresponding opinion leaders may feel called by a higher power to distort biblical statements in a self-righteous way through exaggeration or even to reverse them.

In problematic fundamentalism, religious fanaticism can be accompanied by a tendency to violence. If the missionary work inevitably includes the fight against "external enemies", it is logical to expect a fight against "internal enemies" in the community or family. In this way, even one's own child with its needs and its developing personal personality can be marked as "rebellious" against the parents and thus against the will of God. Such propaganda can be misused for legitimation in the respective communities and families and thus be a (co-) cause of “domestic violence” and, in particular, of child abuse. If the "original sin" or the influence of the "evil" in the child is supposed to be eliminated only through violence in the upbringing, then at the latest the attention of youth welfare is required.

Diverse fundamentalism

Within the overall spectrum, Hempelmann further distinguishes word fundamentalism from spirit fundamentalism. "One figure refers to the infallible Word of God in the Bible (biblical, literalistic-legalistic orientations), the other figure seeks and finds certainty in extraordinary experiences of the Holy Spirit (enthusiastic, Pentecostal-charismatic, Pentecostal orientations)."8

In the last few years, there has been a noticeably strong influx of communities which, on the one hand, are particularly “youthful” and outwardly distinguish themselves through modern cult forms. Musical high-tech and self-stylization as “praise to God” at super events create a highly emotional atmosphere in the fan community. On the other hand, arch-reactionary messages about faith, self-discovery, society, marriage and bringing up children are not infrequently proclaimed behind the scenes according to the motto: self-liberation through "surrendering life" instead of emancipation!

"Faithfulness to the Bible"

The reference to its alleged “faithfulness to the Bible”, which is central to problematic Protestant fundamentalism, often only conceals its highly selective biblicism. Only a suitable selection of text passages is taken literally.
The term “Biblical” often serves as a distinguishing mark among fundamentalists, as in the case of the “Conference of Biblical Training Centers”. In the wording of the much-cited “Chicago Declaration on the Inerrancy of the Bible” this means: “[…] 2. Since the Holy Scriptures are God's own word, written by people whom the Holy Spirit equipped and monitored, it is in of infallible divine authority to all questions she addresses: she must be believed as God's instruction in everything she professes; it must be obeyed as God's commandment in all that it asks; it must be included as God's promise in all that it promises. […] 4. Since Scripture was given completely and verbatim by God, it is without error or mistake in everything it teaches. This is no less true of what she says about God's actions in creation, about the events of world history and about her own, God-created literary origin, than for her testimony of God's saving grace in the lives of individuals. [...]. "

Unfortunately, the unprotected term "Bible fidelity" is also used by problematic fundamentalists to pretend seriousness and solidarity with other Christians, or to proclaim that they - possibly exclusively - represent true "faithfulness to the Bible", while in fact they represent an however extreme, operate one-sided or selective interpretation of the Bible. A typical example of such a “biblical” theology as a fundamental criticism of school pedagogy, the state and the constitution in Germany can be found on the homepage of a publicly known Christian refusal to attend compulsory education who has already been brought to court. insists: "Scripture teaches homeschooling". (The author of this publication has since deleted his website, determined on January 25, 2018; the text is available to the Bavarian State Youth Welfare Office).

From the point of view of youth welfare there is an "unmistakable" Clarification of the official churches overdue: Which biblical passages are not to be interpreted literally with regard to the laws applicable in Germany? In particular with regard to the legal concept of the “best interests of the child” and non-violence as an educational model in the sense of the Basic Law, a more consistent Christian “word of power” is appropriate here. A clear demarcation can also prevent “normal” church Christians from being appropriated by problematic fundamentalist circles on the fringes of the churches. In particular, we should think of young Christians who are looking for meaningful engagement or a clear orientation.

At least when it comes to dealing with biblical texts for the area of ​​the Reformation confessions, Hempelmann takes a positive and clear position here: “In the question of the justification of the certainty of faith, Reformation and fundamentalist understanding of the Bible differ at one crucial point.Reformation theology refrained from ensuring the reliability of the divine word through a verbal inspiration dogma. Likewise, she denied a prophetic immediacy, which is detached from the word of scripture and the external means of divine communication of grace, and insisted on the word-relatedness of the spiritual work. In contrast to word fundamentalism, it should be emphasized that God's holy closeness in his word only exists in broken and provisional forms. The Bible is not an object of the belief in salvation either in the central Reformation confessional texts or in the symbols of the early church. "9

From a youth welfare point of view, one must always differentiate that an arbitrary, selective interpretation of the Bible text is ultimately covered by religious freedom in terms of upbringing and child welfare for followers of fundamentalist perspectives. Only the vehemence of implementation in everyday education, the rigorism and a tendency to violence, which narrowly refer to isolated, extreme beliefs (because this is supposedly "God's will"!), With their concrete effects on this Child and family are the real problem.


Next to Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli, Jean Calvin was the most powerful reformer of Protestantism.

The churches specifically referring to the reformer Jean Calvin call themselves “Reformed Churches”, while the umbrella term “Calvinism” describes Calvin's decisive influence, especially on the large number of Protestant churches and denominations in the Anglo-American region.

In 2015, the "Evangelical Church in Germany" (EKD) defined Calvinism in its official online "Faith ABC" briefly and succinctly as follows:
“It differs from the Lutheran Reformation in the understanding of the Lord's Supper, but above all in the idea of ​​predestination (providence). Accordingly, man is predestined by God either for salvation or for damnation. Whether the path leads to heaven or to hell can best be read from the success or failure of a person. "

It is precisely this Calvinist self-image that often forms the breeding ground for the fundamentally negative view of people and the world, as is abundantly expressed in the problematic "educational guides" of fundamentalist Protestants from the USA. Such devout parents are confronted with the situation of raising their children to obedience and earthly success as early as possible, although the otherworldly "Eternal Life" is supposed to have already been determined by fate. If the desired success is not visible despite all educational efforts, punishing and “rendering harmless” of bad (“rebellious”) children may appear to be the only effective method. As a result of being accused of being “bad” or “sinful”, children in a fundamentalist environment can be systematically demonized and thus massively psychologically abused, which, depending on the “stability” / resilience of those affected, leads to self-abandonment or despair with the known psychological impairments can.

2. Special priorities from the point of view of youth welfare:

2.1 Which biblical wisdom can still be misused today to “raise” children?

And what does the "Good News" of Jesus mean as a starting point for Christian education?
The Bible contains a whole series of instructions on "chastisement" which, as we understand it today, must be interpreted as an invitation to abuse children:

  • If a man has a stubborn and unruly son who does not listen to the voice of his father and mother, and if they chastise him and he still does not listen to them [...] Then all the men in the city should stone him and he should to die. You should remove the evil from your midst. Let all Israel hear about it, so that they may be afraid. (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21)
  • Whom the Lord loves he chastises like a father chastises his son he loves (Proverbs 3:12; standard translation 1981); Or in an already defused translation: For whom the LORD loves, he rebukes him, and yet takes pleasure in him like a father in a son (Luther Bible 1968)
  • Those who love discipline love knowledge, those who hate rejection are stupid. (Proverbs 12: 1)
  • Whoever saves the rod hates his son, whoever loves him breeds him at an early age. (Proverbs 13:24)
  • You hit him with the stick, but save his life from the underworld. (Proverbs 23:14)
  • For whom the Lord loves he chastises; he beats every son he likes with the rod. (Hebrews 12: 6)

With the latter verse (Hebrews 12: 6), among the problematic sayings of the Old Testament, the verse Proverbs 3:12 (see above) “made it” into the New Testament. The singular saying in the New Testament says: “For whom the Lord loves, he chastises; he hits the rod everyone Son whom he is fond of "(Heb.12, 6; standard translation 1981 or:" For whom the Lord loves, he chastises and punishes any Son, that he picks up“(Luther Bible 1968). Note the radicalization towards the Old Testament, Proverbs 3:12: every son. The fact that the daughters are not exempt from this is probably not even worth mentioning for the authoritarian-minded author.

In contrast to these biblical instructions, the benevolent Bible reader can very well choose the preaching of Jesus as the ethical standard for his (educational) action and orientate himself on the commandment to love one's neighbor, even to love one's enemy (see "Sermon on the Mount", Mt 5, 43-47 and "Feldrede", Lk 6.27 and 6.32-36). The major difference (to the Old Testament) of the Attitude of Jesus towards children will be in the standout scene in Mt. 19, 13-14 clear:

“The blessing of the children: The children were brought to him so that he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples harshly rejected the people. But Jesus said: Let the children come to me; don't stop them! Because people like them belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. ”(Standard translation) Here Jesus expressly opposed the hostility to children of his disciples (!) And showed them (!) Especially using the example of children (in general) who is entitled“ to win / to win the Kingdom of Heaven inherit".

How these actually clearly formulated commandments could experience a negative change and narrowing in the course of church history is unfortunately already visible in the New Testament. As “the next one” Paulus v. a. "The brother in the Lord" understood. In particular, “the Jews”, irreversible pagans and sinners, unbelievers, heretics or even apostates were soon identified as enemies (of God) to be fought. This can also be a cornerstone for the hatred of many problematic fundamentalists, whose profile can be clearly recognized by their image of the enemy, and whose image of the enemy (which can be exchanged as a projection) often represents their primary guideline for orientation.

In addition to the search for the “external” enemy, the search for the enemy “in one's own camp” can be added, especially if the external enemy (up to now) seems overwhelming and unassailable. Even if the mission is the fight against the “prince of the world” or, across the board, the sinful modernity in the western world, it makes sense to start at home, because your own children still have the best chances for appropriate leadership or even indoctrination appear.

According to the scheme of loyalty vs. betrayal, there can be educational models and basic attitudes that are in the child v. a. perceive the future fighter for the cause of the "orthodox" or assess the child as unsuitable or even harmful. There is a danger here that the child will be understood from the outset as having been marked by “original sin”, from which it is to be freed through an upbringing according to the “will of God”. Then the danger threatens that not only the “rebellious child” will be degraded to the “enemy child” per se, to a mere object of educational or even countermeasures, but that all children have to be “chastised” without distinction in order to “chastise” them. rescue".

The “dogmatic, power-oriented understanding of upbringing” that emerges from such an understanding in extreme cases is characterized by the fact that “the classic [fundamentalist] enemy images such as a society without values, humanism or anti-authoritarian education are not invoked. [...] In the power-oriented understanding, the enemy has to be looked for somewhere else, he is located within the ingroup itself: the enemy is the child in a shocking way. "10

Another point of contention of Protestant biblical interpretations that is relevant here concerns the so-called evil, the figure of Satan, the apocalyptic images of impending eternal damnation and the demonization of supposedly hostile powers. From the point of view of modern, scientifically founded theology, the “Good News” of the New Testament can very well refer to that which liberates from all apocalyptic fear Jesus word in Luke 10, 18 and 19 because: “(18) He said to them: I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. (19) See, I have given you the authority to […] overcome all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. ”This probably authentic saying of Jesus testifies to his certainty that the decisive turning point, the new thing in his message, the disempowerment of Satan is no longer in the future, but has already occurred with God. "It cannot be ruled out that this Logion summarizes the calling vision of Jesus that he may have received at his baptism."11 The central style of the preaching of Jesus does not aim (anymore) at the fear-inducing threat of the coming judgment, but at the joyful promise of the presence of salvation.12 This forbids Christians to stir up apocalyptic fears before the final judgment and to degrade their fellow human beings or even their own child to an (educational) object for the fight against “evil”.

2.2 Examples of particularly problematic educational ideas and practices

Chastisement of Children by the "Twelve Tribes"

The allegedly “early Christian” community of “The Twelve Tribes”, which is represented worldwide, has repeatedly attracted a great deal of attention in Germany over the past few years. Above all, the (biblically based!) Upbringing practices repeatedly led to disputes, which finally culminated in the removal of a total of 40 children in September 2013 due to the evidence of regular corporal punishment.

At the beginning of the educational manual of the "Twelve Tribes": "Our Child Training Manual", the central educational goal of problematic fundamentalist communities is defined as an example:
"The control phase creates the lawful power of rule with which parents dispose of the will of their children. When parents can control their children, they have laid the necessary basis for their obedience and instruction about the commandments / regulations. Then their children will be able to Sons and Daughters of the Commandment (John 14:21, 23, 2413) to become. "[...]" Prov. 22: 6 applies absolutely / unreservedly, parents provided their Heavenly Father with all their hearts obedience Afford. Parents must recognize the commandments of Scripture as absolute truth and infinitely superior to any human method, educational system, or thought. There can be no compromise here by attempting to make the Word of God as it stands in the scriptures compatible with any human philosophies, psychology, sociology, religious beliefs, or public opinion.
God's word is absolutely to be accepted without adulteration by human hands. The word is alive and powerful and more important today than in any other age in human history. "14 [Author's translation]

In addition, from a contribution by the "Twelve Tribes", which has since been taken off the Internet:
“Are we in the time Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3: 1-3?
You should know that: difficult times will come in the last few days. People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, arrogant, vicious, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, devoid of awe, loveless, unforgiving, slanderous, uncontrolled, ruthless, rude, insidious, daring, haughty, more towards pleasure than God. They will keep the appearance of piety, but they will deny the power of piety.
Children who disobey their parents are listed under the signs of the end times. Why? Couldn't all of these listed characteristics be traced back to a lack of child-rearing? "15

Among the many personal reports by children of the "Twelve Tribes" on their homepage, the following presentation significantly praises the educational practices used - so to speak, "experienced first hand" - and their "biblical" legitimation:

“Chavivah's representation

I was also one of those children who were blessed to be born and raised with a purpose. My parents raised me according to the Word of God as it is in the Bible. As Proverbs 22: 6 says, a person will later be the way they were raised as a child. [...] So because my parents had an intention in life themselves and had the same intention for us, they obeyed the instructions in Proverbs 23 , 14-15 and 13.24.

Proverbs 23: 14-15
14By striking him with the rod, you save his soul from death. 15 My son, if your heart becomes wise, it will be a joy for my heart too.
Proverbs 13:24
24 He who saves his rod hates his son; but whoever loves him punishes him in good time.

They did not tolerate any disobedience, disrespect or rebellion. But I remember always knowing how to please them. I felt a need to make her happy. The thought that they would be in grief because of me was terrible to me. Still, if it did happen, I would never have run away to hide for a while - because I knew that only when I received my discipline would I get better feelings. Therefore, they never had to get angry or frustrated and they were never fed up with me, because everything was always simple and clear. Then they forgave me and everything was fine. I always knew I was loved - because they disciplined me.

Discipline is never about punishment, and it is certainly not a conduit for letting go of frustration. Discipline is our Heavenly Father's way of showing a child what is good and what is pleasing to the Father and Mother, and what is bad that they dislike.

When I see children whose parents don't discipline them, I feel sorry for them. They rarely find out that their parents enjoy them or do not even know how they can please them at all - because they are not taught, only tolerated. [...] "16

Two (Internet) indexed by the "Federal Testing Office for Media Harmful to Young People (BPjM)"
Educational Guide on Chastisement as a Basic Educational Tool

a) Decision No. 11264 (V) of December 16, 2013 on the Internet article:
"Why the rod is fair"; Author: Pastor Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh;
Hampton Keathley, Garland, USA17

In the detailed description and justification of the BPjM, the propagation of the necessity of corporal punishment as the primary educational method is condemned in this extensive "Bible-faithful" Internet guide. The following assertions are emphasized in the decision:
„ …
[Argument: Most parents would not chastise their children for various reasons, which is why they must be urged to do so by God or the Bible.]
[Argument: Just as the government uses punishments - such as the death penalty - to keep citizens from sinning, corporal punishment keeps children from sinning - "Just as the government bears the sword, so parents hold the rod."]
[Argument: Corporal punishment is a character test for the child who, ideally, accepts the punishment and then shows remorse and improvement.]

The conclusion says: We cannot draw any conclusion from the scriptures other than that righteousness calls for the rod. God's righteousness requires that He judge the unbelievers and chasten His own people. "18

The instructions on the use of force in this “guide”, even with regard to very small children (“The rod is used to guide those who are not yet accessible”), are accordingly clearly assessed by the BPJM. The basic right of minors to physical integrity is negated in an extreme way. Hitting with hard objects such as rods or baton to achieve humility and docility in children is advocated and played down. "Respect for the physical integrity of other people and the teaching of non-violent behavior are among the most important educational goals that ensure that children and young people develop into sociable personalities."

From the point of view of child and youth media protection as well as youth welfare as a whole, there is a serious problem with regard to its dissemination, especially using the indexing of this Internet offer as an example. The BPJM states on p. 13: "Since the medium is widespread on the Internet and easily accessible for children and young people, it cannot be assumed that it will be used only slightly." It is all the worse that the US provider is "Doesn't give a damn" about the decision of the BPJM (and thus about German law ...), and the criticized side continues to put it on the Internet unchanged.

b) Decision No. 10919 (V) of April 5, 2013 published in the Federal Gazette AT of 30.4.2013 : The book "Parents - Shepherds of Hearts" by Tedd Tripp, 3L Verlag non-profit GmbH, Waldems19

Also for the educational guide of this US-American pastor, the "constituent element" endangering the development of children and adolescents or their upbringing to a self-reliant and socially competent personality "is determined in § 18 para. 1 sentence 1 JuSchG according to the constant rulings of the federal inspection agency and supreme court rulings" .20

The BPjM justifies its indexing decision here on the basis of similar, allegedly strictly "biblical" statements and instructions and takes the following text examples from the indexed book as an example of the dangerous nature of the instructions of this author:

"The" rod "is by definition a parental duty." (P. 135)
“Using corporal punishment is also an act of faith. God has ordained their use ”(p. 136)
"The" rod "is also an expression of loyalty to the child." (P. 136)
"The" rod "is a responsibility." (P. 136)
“The“ rod ”is a“ rescue mission ”. The child in need of discipline has distanced itself from its parents through disobedience ”(p. 137)

Overall, the book permeates the requirement that one must inflict pain on the child, e.g. For example: “It is important that your child feels that he is being chastised. It doesn't help if diapers or other items of clothing make corporal punishment a caress. ”If the child shows anger or refuses to be disciplined, the punishment must necessarily be repeated (see p. 182).

The committee also considered the fact that the punishment for smaller children (infants up to preschool age) is more likely to be required than for older children, for whom, in addition to the punishment, communication is just as important (but only as much) as particularly serious.22

3. The legal standard of the best interests of the child in Germany

“The child is a being with its own human dignity and its own right to the development of its personality [and the right to physical integrity; Addition by the author] within the meaning of Art. 1 I and Art. 2 I [u. Art. 2 II] GG. A constitution that places human dignity at the center of its value system can in principle not grant anyone rights in the person of another when it comes to the order of interpersonal relationships that are not at the same time bound by duties and respect the human dignity of the other. The recognition of parental responsibility is therefore justified in the fact that the child needs protection and help in order to develop into an independent personality within the social community, as it corresponds to the human image of the Basic Law [...]. The state must watch over this and, if necessary, protect the child, who is not yet able to protect himself, from his development from being abused by the parents. Rights or neglect suffers damage. "23

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) emphasized in Article 19: Protection against the use of force, mistreatment, neglect.

Not just incidentally: “Except for the USA, all states have the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified. "24 To what extent this is owed to the political power of fundamentalist Christian circles in the USA, who, in addition to other special freedoms, do not want to forego the right of parents or even school teachers to "chastise" their children as they see fit, is hardly in question. This notice is relevant for us because the Protestant fundamentalist "educational guides" classified as dangerous by German-speaking child and youth protection agencies come predominantly from the USA and are making the rounds in the German-speaking countries in the "relevant" circles (see examples above). under 2.).

For the corresponding socio-political consequences in a cultural comparison, see also the assessments of Prof. Christian Pfeiffer (Criminological Research Institute Lower Saxony (KFN))

The extensive investigations of the KFN on the subject have naturally not gone unchallenged from evangelical and fundamentalist circles, as in footnotes 25a and 25b is documented.

In German law, the best interests of the child are in Section 1631 BGB (2) certain: Children have a right to a non-violent upbringing. Corporal punishments, emotional injuries and other degrading measures are not permitted.
But it can do that even in Germany Legal understanding of a presiding judge of a regional court (according to the publisher's information). Various problematic statements of his (under a pseudonym) legal article in the journal of the "Conference for Church Planting" with the title: "Legal Aspects of Corporal Punishment", which is also distributed on the Internet, speak for themselves:

"Unlike God and His law, the law imposed by humans has always been changeable." "What the purpose of state punishment, namely the improvement of the person concerned, should therefore be denied parental punishments."
"In the meantime, however, the prevailing opinion is that these" light "corporal punishments also qualify as bodily harm."
"The legal assessment of corporal punishment of children by their parents does not correspond to the biblical finding."
[And in the final paragraph:]
“The crucial question in this context is whether we want to obey God more or not. This is a decision of conscience that everyone has to make for themselves and that I would like to leave to each of them. "

The constitutional lawyer Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde coined the now famous sentence: "The liberal, secularized state lives on conditions that it cannot guarantee itself." The former chairman of the EKD Council, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, sees this fundamental dilemma in connection with the “civil religion” prevailing in Germany, which he distinguishes from that in the USA. For the German constitutional state, he explains the following as a demarcation:
“The state refrains from defining the prerequisites from which a consciousness of freedom and willingness to take responsibility can be renewed. But it is not indifferent to him whether there are institutions that take care of the content and the dissemination of such requirements. He is committed to religious neutrality. But he has good reasons to combine this religious neutrality with an attitude that promotes religion. Its religious neutrality obliges the state in principle to respect the freedom of all religions equally. But it cannot be indifferent to him in what relation the religions stand to the constitution of the liberal, secularized state. In this respect he has a special inner affinity to the distinction between state and religion, which is an indispensable prerequisite for the enlightened secularity of the legal system. "27

With regard to “loyalty to the state”, there is a significant difference between the self-image of the German (official) churches as corporations of a democratic constitutional state and the attitude of problematic fundamentalist communities and movements that follow apparently theocratic intentions. Certain fundamentalists precisely explain the cooperative attitude of the large churches in Germany towards the free constitutional state as the worst betrayal of their religion (see e.g. above: "The Holy Scriptures teach 'homeschooling'" " This text, which has since been taken off the Internet, is available to the Bavarian State Youth Welfare Office).

The right of is related to the child § 1 SGB VIII decisive, according to which every young person has the right to support his development and to be educated to become an independent and socially responsible personality.
Regarding the constitutional requirements for the deprivation of parental custody in the event of child welfare violations according to §1666 BGB (judicial measures in case of endangerment of child welfare) and § 8a SGB VIII (protection mandate in case of child welfare endangerment) Federal Constitutional Court currently with Decision (- 1 BvR 1178/14 -) of November 19, 201429 (or press release of the BVerfG dated November 28, 2014) the relevant principles are recorded.
In individual cases, in order to justify separation of the child from its parents, the specialized courts have determined that the parental misconduct has reached such an extent that the child's physical, mental or emotional well-being would be endangered by the parents. Article 6 (3) of the Basic Law only allows a child to be separated from its parents against their will if the parents fail or if the child threatens to go neglect for other reasons. Removal and external placement are i. d. As a rule, it is assumed that the child has already suffered damage or that considerable damage can be foreseen with reasonable certainty. If the courts rely on the findings of an expert report, its usability must not be subject to any constitutional doubts. In order to remedy this, the courts have to classify the findings in the reports independently and subject them to legal assessment.

"The hazard assessment may address possible deficits in the ability of parents to raise their children, but it must justify the nature, severity and probability of the impairments to the child feared as a result, and why these risks are so serious that they are, for example legitimize out-of-home placement. "For the specialized courts, Article 6, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Basic Law give rise to the requirement to specifically name the harm threatening the child according to their type, severity and likelihood of occurrence, and to identify them against the background of fundamental rights protection against the separation of the child from its parents to rate. If the courts base the separation of the child from the parents - as in this case - on educational deficits and unfavorable developmental conditions, from which the considerable risk to the child's welfare does not necessarily result in exceptional cases, they must carefully examine and explain why the resulting risks for the mental and emotional development of the child Exceed the limit of what is acceptable. "30

Last but not least, be here on that Law on Religious Upbringing of Children (RelKErzG) pointed out, from which the rights of children and adolescents to religious freedom and religious maturity, which are also to be taken seriously by the family courts, result.

The will to have children and full religious maturity at the age of 14 must therefore also be taken into account in cases when minors refuse, for example, to return from (temporary) out-of-home placement to their biological family in a religious community that determines everyday family life around the clock and maybe even refused compulsory schooling (see example "Twelve Tribes").

Parental parenting behavior

In each individual case, it must be weighed up to what extent the parents represent those (problematic) attitudes, educational goals and methods that contradict the legal and generally recognized non-legal standards and in the specific case the child's welfare is at risk.

It contradicts Article 4, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law, the aptitude for bringing up the child alone with reference to active membership in a certain religious community (OLG Stuttgart, FamRZ 95, 1290; OLG Saarbrücken, FamRZ 96, 561).

A child welfare risk is to be examined more closely if the parents practice or pursue educational methods and goals for which z. B. characteristic are:

  • Use of violence as a means of education (punishment)
  • degrading surveillance measures
  • Creation of relationships of dependency
  • Denial of the complexity of the world
  • exclusive claim to truth
  • Think in friend-foe schemes and the child is forced to be loyal to parents / teaching
  • Exclusion of distanced / critical family members / previous friends (e.g. through bans on contact / "disfellowshipping")
  • Strong defense against any criticism
  • Invitation to denounce those who think differently / believers ("incitement" as an alleged missionary mandate)
  • Social isolation of the child
  • Threats / evocation of existential fears as a means of education

(The points mentioned are exemplary and by no means conclusive!)

Judicial measures in the event of a threat to the best interests of the child according to Section 1666 BGB have been specified in more detail since 2008

(1) If the physical, mental or emotional well-being of the child or his property is endangered and the parents are unwilling or unable to avert the danger, the family court must take the measures necessary to avert the danger.
[(2) …]
(3) The judicial measures according to paragraph 1 include in particular
1. Commandments to make use of public assistance such as child and youth welfare and health care services,
2. Commandments to ensure that school attendance is observed,
3. Prohibitions to use the family home or another home temporarily or for an indefinite period of time, to stay in a certain area around the home or to visit other places to be determined where the child stays regularly,
4. Prohibitions on establishing contact with the child or bringing about an encounter with the child,
5. the replacement of declarations made by the holder of parental authority,
6. partial or total withdrawal of parental authority.
(4) In matters of personal care, the court can also take measures with effect against a third party.31

4. Outlook

“We have to give children the political and social status they deserve. Because children are the foundation of our society. You have the right to be prepared for an individual life in society through a loving and caring upbringing in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity - this is the preamble of the UN Children's Convention. “So Dr. Lore Maria Peschel-Gutzeit wrote her article "The child as a bearer of their own rights - the long way to a non-violent upbringing" in 200132.

Therefore, even 15 years after the entry into force of the “Law to Outlaw Violence in Education”, it still seems urgently necessary for a not inconsiderable part of the population to disregard this law33 to keep a watchful eye and prevent child welfare harm and abuse. The differentiated and well-balanced court decisions made in the case of the "Twelve Tribes" and the so-called"Sect children of Lonnerstadt" were obtained. Such decisions not only lead to a professional clarification of valuable criteria for youth welfare practice, but also have a significant orienting, warning and enlightening function with regard to the parents and citizens who are responsible for upbringing.

The tenor of this article could give the wrong impression that the youth welfare service with regard to religious “fundamentalism” is primarily concerned with the aspect of physical violence in upbringing. This is not the case; rather, the “corporal punishments” are mostly “only” the “tip of the iceberg”, more easily visible from the outside, of psychological violence or of problematic upbringing in general. On the other hand, it is also not a solution to condemn a conscious religious upbringing at all based on the justified criticism of questionable religiosity.34 How a basic attitude corresponding to the child's well-being and successful loving upbringing can be positively formulated is shown here, for example, by the overview by child and adolescent psychiatrist Gunther Klosinski in his article: “When was religious upbringing successful?”35

Finally - for further reading - to Astrid Lindgren's speech with the title: "Never violence!"36 on the occasion of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade awarded to her in 1978. Here the real Christian spirit and consequently against the (biblical) motto became: "Whoever spares the rod will spoil the boy!" called for nonviolence in upbringing, as one has to miss that from the official church side in Germany to this day, at least in this passion and clarity.

Helmar Bluhm

(Revised / updated version: October 2018)


1 Beinert, Wolfgang et al., “Catholic Fundamentalism - Heretical Groups in the Church?”, Regensburg 1991
2 Meyer, Thomas, "Fundamentalism - uprising against modernity", Hamburg 1989, pp. 37/38
3 ibid p. 38
4 see Martin Riesebrodt, Protestant Fundamentalism in the USA. Religious rights in the age of electronic media, EZW-Information No. 102, EZW, Stuttgart VIII / 1987 (, p. 2f.
5 see Hempelmann, Reinhard in Hempelmann, R. et al. (Ed.), “Panorama der Neue Religiosität”, Gütersloh 2005, p. 432f
6 see also Streib, Heinz, “Milieus and Organizations of Christian Fundamentalist Character” in “New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups”, German Bundestag 1998, Hoheneck-Verlag Hamm, p. 107 ff
7 see Hempelmann, R., “Are Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism identical?”, in Materialdienst 1/06 of the Evangelical Center for Weltanschauungsfragen, EZW Berlin, p. 7f.
8 Hempelmann in "Panorama ...", loc. Cit., P. 422; there the author describes the entire spectrum mentioned in great detail on pages 411 - 509
9 see Hempelmann, R., “Are Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism identical?” op. cit., p. 14
10 see “Parenting Understandings in Evangelical Parenting Guides and Courses”, Zurich, April 5, 2013 / Version 1.1, p.22. This groundbreaking study by the “Fachstelle infoSekta” in cooperation with the “Stiftung Kinderschutz Schweiz” can be found at: 2013-educational-understanding-in-evangelical-educational-guides-and-courses /
11 Roloff, Jürgen, "Jesus", Munich, 4th edition 2007, p. 73)
12 see Roloff loc. cit., p. 78
13 [Wording of Prov. 22, 6 according to the standard translation: "Educate the boy for his life path, then he will not deviate from it in old age."]
14 OUR CHILD TRAINING MANUAL 140601.1946, p. 10, 1997 Yehudah,
Child Training II - Introduction (; Emphasis in the original): "The control phase is the establishment of the parents’ rights of rulership over the will of their children. When parents can control their children, they have laid the necessary foundation for obedience and teaching them the commandments. Then their children will be able to become sons and daughters of the commandment (Jn 14: 21,23,24). ”[…]“ Pr 22: 6 is absolute if parents are obedient from the heart to their father in heaven. The parents must accept the commandments in scripture as absolute truth and infinitely superior to any human method or system of child training or thinking. There can be no compromise by an attempt to modify the word of God found in the scriptures, to make it compatible with any human philosophies, psychology, sociology, religious views, or public opinion. God's word is to be accepted absolutely without human adulterations. The word is living and powerful and is relevant today more than any other period of human history. "
15, "When the sun is no longer shining", n.d., p. 5/6 (emphasis in the original)
17 Decision can be requested from BPjM (personal data has been removed)
18 see p. 3 of the decision; The “arguments” in square brackets are in the decision
19 Decision can be requested from BPjM (personal data has been removed);
20 see page 2 of the decision
21 see p. 4 of the decision
22 all quotations p. 4 of the decision
23 BVerfG, decision of July 29, 1968 - 1 BvL 20/63, 31/66, 5/67; FamRZ 1968, p. 578
24 see the UNICEF homepage on key points of the convention:
26 see "Church Foundation" No. 110, 2/12, pages 3 and 20-27, available as a pdf download at:
30 see press release of the BVerfG, page 3
31Version based on the law to facilitate family court measures in the event of a risk to the best interests of the child from 04.07.2008 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 1188) with w. V. 07/12/2008
32 in “early childhood” 2/01, published by the “German League for the Child”
34 AVBayKiBiG §4 (1): All children should experience central elements of the Christian-Occidental culture and learn to live meaning and value-oriented and with respect for religious convictions and to develop their own religious or ideological identity based on charity.