Tanzverbot April 10, 2009

Europe is definitely more secular than America… but they’re not immune from religious nonsense interfering with the government.

Case in point: today, on Good Friday, there is a ban on dancing in many parts of Germany. It’s called Tanzverbot.

I found a lot of poorly translated articles on it in German, so maybe a reader can shed more light on the matter.

But I did find this reference to it in a book called Hitler’s Dancers:

The mechanisms of an entire systen that tried to gain control over every possible area of life had taken on perplexing and monstrous dimensions. Bizarre, inhumane, useless, and at the same time destructive empty and crazy — Tanzverbot, “dance prohibition,” was an authentic reflection of German circumstances in a very special German time. Although in the end it was ideologically ineffective and politically nonsensical, this ban on dancing demonstrated one thing above all: no place, no matter, no issue was too trivial for National-Socialist arbitrary tyranny to ignore.

Yet, it’s still going on…

(Thanks to Jason for the link!)

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  • Jochen Bedersdorfer

    Well, the Tanzverbot is not an invention of the nazi regime.

    Dance prohibition appears in many monotheistic religions. In the middle ages, christians were not allowed to dance at all, since excessive dancing was often considered a sign for obsession.

    Some of those regulations actually made it into state-wide laws in Germany.
    It is one of the bizarre remains of christian influence throughout Europe.

    A petition to change this law in the state of Baden-Württemberg has recently been rejeced by the Landtag because of the special protection holidays receive in the constitution.

    Well, when I lived in Germany, I was never affected by it really. What troubles me a lot more is that some religious offices in Germany are paid for with state taxes.

    So, no matter if I am a member of the roman catholic church or not, the local bishop for example is paid by the state and not by the almighty Vatican!

    According to this link (german), the state of Bavaria paid 62 Million Euros to the 7 catholoc dioceses in 2000…

  • Devysciple

    Being German myself, I can tell you that the state I live in even has special laws that prohibit Discothèques and other recreational facilities from opening on these days. Violation will grant you a hefty fine.

    Moreover, you are not allowed to wash your car, mow the lawn, or entertain in any noisy activity. If one of your neighbours is offended, you’ll have to pay.

    I don’t have to tell you how much this sucks, but at the end of the day, it boils down to “My freedom ends where yours begins.”

  • Erp

    Dancing was prohibited during the Middle Ages? Evidence? Liturgical dance (dance as part of church services) was sometimes prohibited but I don’t think secular dancing (at least until the time of the Reformation).

    Liturgical dance seems to be making a come back (though conservative Catholics disapprove). So is it the Catholic or the Lutheran parts of Germany banning dancing on Good Friday?

  • Hhahah. German Footloose!

  • I’m not opposed to dancing, just bad dancing. Which is why (thank goodness) you’ll never see me in lederhosen.

  • Ulrich

    It’s not just Good Friday, btw, but a whole list of holidays, dependent on what state you’re in. I checked the Bavarian law for an example (Bavaria is the most religious and conservative German state): they have Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday through Saturday, All Hallows, Christmas Eve, Volkstrauertag (a secular holiday commemorating war casualties) and two more Protestant holidays listed as “stille Tage” (silent days), which means that “public entertainment events are allowed only if the solemnness befitting the day is upheld”. On Good Friday, even sports events are forbidden.

    Well, yes. Even though our situation is nowhere near that in the US as far as religious extremism goes, separation of church and state has not quite been completed. For instance, the state collects taxes in the name of churches, and records people’s religious affiliations for that purpose. Deconverts must go to a public office in order to have their records changed, and pay some 30 € for it. Our Federal Constitutional Court has upheld this practice in a recent decision, so it is unlikely to change soon.

    That, and we still have a blasphemy law. But what’s to expect when the ruling party bears the name “Christian Democratic Union”?

  • Helen

    This party-prohibition applies also to parts of Switzerland, both catholic and protestant, and the old regulations (from the time before church-state separation) have been questioned onyl recently. The canton of Lucerne has just cancelled their dance prohibition for church holidays.
    The church-state separation in Germany, Switzerland and as far as I know, Austria was some kind of a deal with compromises, eg. church privileges in taxation, or some university chairs in phliosophy and pedagogy which are paid for by the state, but filled by the church. But we have no clergy sitting in parliament. An other part of the compromise is a proper church register Ulrich mentioned: the churches _have_ to take notice if someone decides to leave them and can’t claim that this person is a christian (this is a problem in Italy, eg). In Switzerland, catholic bishops are almost elected: the synode presents a list of names, and the pope is supposed to “choose” the first. John Paul II didn’t do that in 1991, and local clergy and believers embargoed the new bishop, including not forwarding him the church taxes. He had to be “promoted” to Liechtenstein.
    So, yes, there’s still very much to be done for secularism in Europe, too. But more than 30% of Germans do not belong to _any_ church, and there are 1-2 members of parliament who are declared nonbelievers.

  • saminmunich

    mildly annoying, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, e.g., compared with abortion, teaching creationism in public schools, abstinence only education, etc…

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