A social role for churches and cultural demarcation: how German MEPs represent religion in the European Parliament

Anne Jenichen, Henrike Müller

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


This study deals with the question of how German members of the European Parliament (MEPs) represent the German model of religion–state relations at the European level. Based on a survey and interviews with German MEPs as well as a content-analysis of German MEPs’ speeches, motions and parliamentary questions during the seventh term of the European Parliament (EP), our study demonstrates that this model is represented in three dimensions. First, German MEPs reflect the close cooperation between the churches and the state in Germany, primarily on social issues, through largely church- and religion-friendly attitudes and relatively frequent contacts with religious interest-groups. Second, by referring to religious freedoms and minorities primarily outside the EU and by placing Islam in considerably more critical contexts than Christianity, German MEPs create a cultural demarcation line between Islam and Christianity through their parliamentary activities, which is similar to, though less politicised than, cultural boundaries often produced in public debates in Germany. Third, our study illustrates similar patterns of religious affiliation and subjective religiosity among German parliamentarians in both the EP and the national Parliament, which to some degree also reflect societal trends in Germany. Yet our data also suggest that European political elites are more religious than the average German population. If the presence of religion in terms of religious interest-groups and arguments is included, the EP appears to be more secularist than the German Parliament.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-165
Number of pages18
JournalReligion, state and society
Issue number2-3
Early online date20 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • religion
  • church-state relations
  • church
  • Islam
  • Germany
  • European Parliament


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