I sense the possibility of an unintended new Kulturkampf in Germany; this time it's definitively not driven by the government. The Kulturkampf was a political conflict of the 1870s especially in Prussia, which established a secular state once and for all, established the separation of church and state and broke many clerical privileges such as the definition of who's married and who's not.
The horrible English Wikipedia article on Kulturkampf suggests strongly that it was a huge discrimination and prosecution campaign against the Catholic Church, while the German Wikipedia article on Kulturkampf is seemingly about an entirely different series on events (and quite in agreement with what you can read in most German history books about the period).
For example, the German wikipedia article mentions how actually the Catholic Church in person of its pope attacked freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. An early supposed discriminations was a law that forbade to incite violence and unrest with sermons.
|Kulturkampf: A contemporary caricature|
Well, in the end the Catholic Church lost (Prussia was predominantly Protestant anyway) and the result was that both the Catholic and Protestant church (each one in German; we don't have thousands of church organisations) agreed on deals with the state which did indeed include some privileges. Religious teaching in schools and the ability to piggyback contributions to the church on the income tax are among these. There were some rough times for the church-state relationship especially during the periods of tyranny, but rather little changed for about two decades.
This may have come to an end. To date, there are two issues that question the relationship of church/spirituality and state:
(1) Religiously-motivated mutilations of children
Many citizens, especially certain lawyers, medical doctors and certain judges, have run out of patience with the excuse that mutilation of newborns shall be legal because of a religious necessity. This affects primarily circumcision, but it could and appears to creep forward towards questioning the legality of socially accepted piercings (for an earring) in regard to under-16 children. It's certainly unnecessary to detail how the pro-mutilation people reacted.
So far the conservatives appear to attempt to fix the issue by building the privilege to excuse newborn mutilation with religion into German criminal law. It appears this move may be too slow, for the government may face a popular majority against such a jurisdiction already.
Interestingly, the pseudo-Muslim mutilation of young girls in parts of Africa was never tolerated and occasionally damned in the German public. I guess few people who agitated as if we could change such customs in Africa expected us to turn against the forms of mutilation that were so far socially accepted in Europe.
Unknown to many Germans (until recently), there are indeed two law paragraphs against blasphemy in the German criminal code, and both appear to be questionable. One is directed against provocations that can disrupt the civil peace (§166 StGB), while the other (§167 StGB) is outlawing the disruption of a mass.
Both appear to be almost entirely unused, and it has been noted that §166 is in practice not used to protect Christian faith from libel because Christians appear to be too relaxed for reacting in a way that constitutes a breach of civil peace. The paragraph is probably from a time when this was not expected. This 'relaxed' behaviour points out that it's not so much the provocation as rather any violent or otherwise illegal reaction that's the real problem - and accordingly, the so far faint demands for getting rid of §166 may gain some steam and succeed. It would certainly be a victory for free speech.
§167 is very redundant because usually such events happen in a building and it's illegal to enter or stay in foreign property against the will of the owner or a representative thereof (§ 123 StGB).
The Russian "Pussy Riot" group was sentenced to two years in prison (or rather a labour camp) for such a transgression and this was quite universally damned as out of proportion in Germany.
Guess what? Maximum sentence in §167 is three years in Germany. Maximum sentence in §123 is one year, and in its more stern cousin §124 StGB (meant against a mob entering a building) two years.
I suppose that §167 StGB is totally out of sync with modern Germany and will not stand public scrutiny if the press decides to finally pay some serious attention to it.
A deletion of §167 StGB because of redundancy would be a gain for civil liberties as well, at least for the simple reason that any restriction means a loss of freedom (and this one appears to be totally redundant).
It appears that while Protestant and Catholic churches are long since at peace with German secularity (which doesn't keep them from having and voicing a political opinion on certain issues, of course), the relations with other faiths may change in this decade in favour of more liberties and less strange privileges.
On the other hand, there's a movement that pushes for a deal with moderate Muslims similar to the deals with the two big churches; help them finance themselves (which could in effect reduce foreign influence, especially from the Gulf region) and provide a public school and thus necessarily constitution-tolerant alternative to purely private religious teachings. The moderate Muslims in Germany don't appear to be able to get their act together and form some body that could actually sign such a deal, of course*.
Such topics are still in political backwater and bound to lose public attention within weeks, but they could resurface again and again and some legislative action about these issues is politically unavoidable in the long term. There's certainly some potential for improvement in regard to civil liberties here and it's nice to see that the society is indeed interested in progress and not satisfied to stick to the late 20th century forever.
*: The handful of extremist Muslims in Germany (small groups of loudmouths and other idiots of the same category as neonazis, only even fewer) on the other hand can rather expect their organisations to be outlawed due to criminal and counter-constitutional activities.