German churches oppose relaxation of Easter Tanzverbot
German firms - The Guardian - Top Story

German churches oppose relaxation of Easter Tanzverbot

The Tanzverbot, one of Germany’s more puritanical rules, may be lifted in Baden-Württemberg. But churches and rightwing parties are objecting.

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Clubbers are blowing their whistles in celebration and churches are voicing pious disgruntlement after the regional government of Baden-Württemberg said it was considering relaxing the state’s ban on dancing during Easter and other Christian holidays.

The holiday law – often called the Tanzverbot, or dance ban – is present in some form in all German states. It forces nightclubs to close and in some cases bans live music in rooms where food and drink is served. Punishments vary, but violators can risk fines of up to £1,100 (€1,500).

Party-central city states such as Berlin have relaxed the law in recent years, but even it doesn’t allow dance events to start before 9pm on Good Friday.

Baden-Württemberg, a state with a higher Catholic population than most, is among the strictest states, and bans dancing throughout Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Saturday, until 3am on Easter Sunday. It also imposes the ban from Christmas Eve until 3am on 26 December.

The debate over the law resurfaces regularly at Easter in Germany, as pressure from the event management and gastronomy sectors grows. An interior ministry spokesman told the news agency DPA this week the government of the south-western state, a coalition of the Greens and Social Democrats, would be discussing whether and how to relax the ban.

Even if the rule were loosened, churches, which would be consulted about the rule change, have insisted that Good Friday must remain holy.

“As far as the Catholic church is concerned, Good Friday is not open to debate,” a spokesman for the Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese told the Stuttgarter Zeitung.

Bavaria has already announced that it would not be changing its rule, and there has also been resistance to compromise in Hesse. “Good Friday is a Christian holiday dedicated to remembering the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. That does not go together with loud, boisterous celebration,” Uwe Becker, of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told the Frankfurter Rundschau.

In Bavaria, meanwhile, the dance ban is also imposed on other Christian holy days, including Ash Wednesday.

Peter James, chairman of the Stuttgart-based Club Kollektiv, which represents the interests of nightclubs and event organisers in the region, welcomed news that the government was rethinking the rule.

“The ban does represent a big constraint,” he told the Guardian. “But apart from that just on a personal level I don’t want to be told how I organise my days. We live in a multicultural society, and this is clearly a state imposition, and anyway lifting the dance ban doesn’t mean introducing a dance enforcement.”


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