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Corporate Rights Procedure in Berlin (Initial Award)

On 14 March 1990, we received state recognition as the Religionsgemeinschaft der Zeugen Jehovas in der DDR (Religious Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses in East Germany) with a registered office in Berlin. This gave us legal capacity and legal authorisation to carry out our preaching activities. This ended the 40-year ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the former East Germany.

Administrative Procedure in Berlin (1990-1993)

After the reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990, the legal entity of the religious community was renamed Jehovas Zeugen in Deutschland. Under this new name, we began operating throughout all Germany; however, our legal form became questionable. As a next step, we asked for confirmation that Jehovah’s Witnesses held the rights of a corporation under public law based on the state recognition granted in East Germany.

As a precautionary measure, we also applied for corporate rights in the State of Berlin.

After extensive negotiations between the State of Berlin and the other federal states, our application was finally rejected. It was also determined that we had not obtained corporate rights through state recognition in East Germany.

Procedure Before Berlin Administrative Court (1993-1994)

An action was filed with Berlin Administrative Court against the negative decision of the Senate Department for Cultural Affairs in Berlin. In the judgment of 25 October 1993, Berlin Administrative Court ruled that we must be recognised as a public corporation. Our further application, in which we sought a declaration that we already held this status, was denied (VG 27 A 214/93).

First Procedure Before Berlin Higher Administrative Court (1994-1995)

In the judgment of 14 December 1995, Berlin Higher Administrative Court confirmed the judgment of Berlin Administrative Court. According to this, the religious association of Jehovas Zeugen in Deutschland had to be recognised as a corporation under public law (OVG B 20.95). The Higher Administrative Court had no doubts that we fulfil the constitutional requirements of a corporation under public law and should be recognised as such. However, we were unsuccessful in the second instance with our application stating that we had already been a corporation under public law in East Germany before national reunification. The appeal of the Berlin Senate was rejected as unfounded. The judgment from the Higher Administrative Court again obliged the Berlin Senate to award corporate rights to the religious association of Jehovas Zeugen in Deutschland.

First Procedure Before the Federal Administrative Court (1996-1997)

Due to the appeal from the State of Berlin, our claim to corporate rights was dismissed on 26 June 1997. In the judgment, the Federal Administrative Court stated that we met all the requirements set out in the German Constitution (Grundgesetz) to receive corporate rights and that we have a positive attitude towards the state. However, the Court noted that, owing to our non-involvement in political elections for reasons of faith, we did not “demonstrate the loyalty to the democratically constituted state that is essential for lasting cooperation”.