Ecumenical News International

EKD supports initiatives for one-time public holiday for Reformation anniversary in 2017

August 02, 2013

Frankfurt a.M. (epd). The Protestant church and business representatives are arguing about a one-time public holiday to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October 2017. While the companies point to the high costs of taking a day off work, top church representatives underline the outstanding cultural significance of the quincentenary. On 31 October 1517 Martin Luther (1483-1546) published his 95 Theses, which were critical of the church. This date is regarded as the starting point of the worldwide Reformation which led to the founding of the Protestant churches.

"We are pleased at the growing number of German federal states that want to declare the day a one-time public holiday," said Thies Gundlach, who is vice-president of the church office of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). That fact shows "how much the Reformation has shaped the history and present of our country, far beyond the Protestant church." Reformation Day is already a regular public holiday in five of the states in eastern Germany. In addition, the EKD initiative for a nation-wide one-time public holiday to mark the Reformation anniversary in 2017 is supported by the Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate,
Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen and North Rheine-Westphalia have either already taken such decisions or indicated their interest in doing so.
Bavarian Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm told the Evangelical Press Service (epd), that public holidays were "not a plaything of financial interests, but an essential cultural good for the community". Gundlach underlined: "We are willing to enter into a constructive conversation with the industrial associations and representatives on the Reformation anniversary and its importance for our society."

According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, the CEO of the industrial associations of North Rhine-Westphalia, Luitwin Mallmann, warned that in North Rhine-Westphalia alone the holiday would cost industry "up to EUR 500 million". "That will easily add up to several billion euro across the country," Mallmann calculated.

This position is also shared by the federal association of German Employers (BDA). A generally work-free public holiday would burden the companies with costs, without making a contribution to a lasting discussion on the importance of the Reformation, BDA spokesperson Viktor Otto told epd in Berlin. There should be no change in the laws on public holidays in the federal states. Otto pointed out that Reformation Day is already a legally recognized church holiday, on which workers could be freed from the obligation to go to work depending on the needs of the company.

The vice-president of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, Petra Bosse-Huber, told epd in Düsseldorf that industry's doubts about the affordability were understandable. However, the Reformation anniversary in 2017 marked a truly extraordinary event for Germany.  "This event is worth being celebrated with a one-off public holiday," she added.

Economist Peter Bofinger considers the employers' reservations to be exaggerated. While it is "mechanistically correct" that the loss of production through a public holiday in Germany could cost up to ten billion euro, demand does not absolutely disappear through another public holiday, nor is it impossible to balance this loss over the whole year: "I think we should take the opportunity of such a public holiday."

Bremen economist Rudolf Hickel argued similarly. Undoubtedly the holiday would lead to loss of production, he conceded. The estimates on the loss of macro-economic production were vague, however, and "they are intended as a deterrent to going ahead with the idea".

02 August 2013



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