Non-denominational in the spd: klingbeil preaches against atheists

The SPD secretary general Lars Klingbeil does not want to allow a working group "Seculars in the SPD". The Hamburg spokesman is disappointed.

Lars Klingbeil: no friend of atheists and non-denominationalists Photo: Montage/dpa

The federal SPD does not want a working group "Seculars in the SPD". This emerges from a letter from SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil to Gerhard Lein, a member of the Hamburg City Parliament. Lein is one of the spokespersons for the group made up of "Secular Social Democrats."

Lein and his comrades-in-arms stand for the strict separation of church and state and want to abolish privileges of the churches. They refer to statistics according to which the number of believers in all three Abrahamic religions is declining. In Hamburg, the majority of people are already non-denominational.

Lein would therefore have liked to establish a separate working group of seculars and nondenominationalists in the SPD to give them a stronger voice. With official recognition by the party executive, the group would also have the opportunity to finance its work from party funds.

Klingbeil, however, has now rejected the idea – the reason for this is not yet known. As the FAZ reports, Klingbeil even wants to prohibit the group "Secular Social Democrats" from appearing as an interest group with a name that publicly associates it with the SPD.

A distinction is made in the SPD’s organizational statutes between working groups and working parties.

Money is given to both the working groups and the working unions. The amount of money depends on the needs of the respective working groups and working communities.

Working groups must be founded in the federation. Only then may state associations be founded. Examples are the Jusos, the young organization of the SPD, or the "Women in the SPD".

Working groups are, for example, the networks of religious communities. The party executive board sets up the circles and decides whether and which new ones should be added.

As early as the 1970s Christians in the SPD" was formed in the 1970s, and the "Jews in the SPD" was founded in 2007. Both working groups have been recognized in the SPD since 2008.

A spokeswoman for the secretary general told the taz on request that the name of the party was protected and therefore should not be associated with this unauthorized working group. The spokeswoman says that the group is always allowed to say that they are social democrats. "Only as a secular grouping, which is not officially recognized by the party as a working group, they are not allowed to use the name SPD as well as Social Democrats."

To the refusal Klingbeils wants Lein first in its group to coordinate. On Saturday a country-wide meeting would take place in Hanover.

That them even the reference to the SPD in the group name is to be forbidden, of it however Lein so far nothing knew. "Personally, no one has legally forbidden me to call myself a secular Social Democrat." According to the FAZ, Klingbeil had also forbidden the group from doing so, citing his party legal adviser.

For several years, the loose network of secular Social Democrats has been trying to be officially recognized as a working group. However, Klingbeil’s predecessor and current party chairwoman Andrea Nahles refused to do so.

In 2011, Nahles rejected the foundation on substantive grounds: Bringing about a strict separation of church and state would correspond neither to the goals of the SPD’s basic platform nor to the goals of the Basic Law, it said in a statement.

The Bremen Maurice Maschig is not surprised by the strict anti-attitude of the SPD towards the seculars. As a Social Democrat, he has been committed to the concerns of the non-denominational for years. In the meantime, he has left the SPD. "The SPD has an unhealthy closeness to the church," says the 33-year-old. Religious communities take the SPD seriously, but the concerns of seculars and laicists in their own party do not. "The SPD is just not as plural as it would like to portray it," says Maschig.

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