What's the story behind Sunday

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For twelve years now, Bavaria has been sticking to the closing time: the shops are closed on Sundays and public holidays. The "alliance for the free Sunday" wants to ensure that it stays that way.

Status: 05.10.2018

Sunday work

Around 11.5 million people in Germany are on duty on Sundays. For many people, Sunday was once sacred - if not in the ecclesiastical sense, then simply as a day of rest.

To be able to shop every day. No annoying queues at the cash register before long weekends. Stroll when your heart desires. A dream? The legally anchored Sunday protection represents a restriction for the consumer. For the others, however, behind the counter, it is the state guarantee of personal freedom. It was hard won - and yet it is undermined again and again. A brief history of the Sunday rest.

“You should work for six days and deliver all your things. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. You are not supposed to do any work. ”So it says in the Bible. So it says the third commandment. For the first Christians, the holiday, i.e. the Jewish Sabbath, took place on Saturday. Only when the Christians moved away from their Jewish roots did they postpone the day of rest to Sunday. In the fourth century, Emperor Constantine the Great was the first to introduce a law on Sunday protection to enable people to attend church services.

In the 19th century, in the course of industrialization, the order of everyday life that protected Sunday as a holiday broke. Machines should run seven days a week. And the shops were now open seven days a week. The opening times regulate themselves insofar as people have to sleep at some point. Only gradually, under pressure from the labor movement, did the German state take action to protect workers: On October 1, 1900, the first shop closing law came into force. From now on, the shop opening hours were regulated by law and by voluntary agreements of the merchants. Even then, every single hour was haggled over. Sunday rest has been protected by the Basic Law since 1919:

"Sunday and the nationally recognized public holidays remain legally protected as days of rest from work and spiritual exaltation."

Article 140 of the Basic Law

Economic miracle and "department store war"

In the 1950s, during the German economic boom, the retail sector was once again scratching the wall. In 1954 the so-called “Munich Department Store War” broke out, with demonstrations and street battles: “We demand a free weekend” it says on posters. From 1957, the “Law on Shop Closing” was in effect in the Federal Republic of Germany: Shops were now allowed to open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturdays until 2:00 p.m. From now on, trade and lawmakers fought over “long Saturdays” and open Advent Sundays. In 1989 the "long Thursday" was introduced.

Since 2006, since the “federalism reform”, closing time has been a matter for the federal states. Each country can now adapt the opening times to the needs of the region. Only the Sunday rest is protected by the Working Hours Act. Exceptions are permitted, however, for example on Sundays when they are open for business, and these are heavily exploited. In 2009 the churches filed a lawsuit against the Berlin Shop Closing Act before the constitutional court, nationwide the loosest - they were successful: the constitutional judges put a stop to the increasing commercialization of Sundays.

"The Federal Constitutional Court made it clear in 2009 that churches as well as church organizations and trade unions are authorized to take legal action against the approval of Sunday openings ... And there have been great successes in recent years and if it goes on like this, that means that Sunday protection can be saved. "

Lawyer Friedrich Kühn, who legally advised Allianz on the free Sunday

Softening of the Sunday protection

Nevertheless, according to the Federal Statistical Office, more and more people have to work on Sundays. Protest has formed against this: the union and church workers' organizations founded the “Alliance for Free Sunday”. Accordingly, there is the “European Sunday Alliance” at the European level. Because if the work-free Sunday was still anchored in European law until the mid-1990s, the European Court of Justice overturned the clause. Many new EU states in the east did not know the Sunday protection, as it is customary in our country. The UK is currently at the forefront of Sunday work across Europe.

Sunday is ... The deckchairs brought for the Flahwalk are labeled with associations with Sunday.

Professions such as doctors, police, bus drivers and journalists are excluded from Sunday protection. But does the call center also have to work on Sundays? Or at Amazon during the Christmas season? Is a furniture store one kilometer from the town center entitled to take part in a so-called market Sunday that is open for sale? When can such open Sundays take place?

"The prerequisite is that there must be a special event that by itself triggers an uncanny flow of visitors and is formative for the Sunday in the community. That means the Sunday opening may only appear as an accessory to this actual event."

Friedrich Kühn, attorney

More and more companies want to undo the Sunday rest. There was a groundbreaking verdict on this in 2015. The Munich suburb of Eching had extended the Sunday shopping to the furniture stores in the industrial area. That was banned by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. Means: Market Sundays serve to revitalize the city center - furniture stores or hardware stores are not allowed to open on Sundays. And the number of market Sundays is limited depending on the state.

"With furniture stores it is regularly like this: They hold something like a farmers 'market, that means four or five stalls are set up in the parking lot in front of the furniture store that sell sausages and mulled wine, and then they say: This farmers' market is formative. That is of course not the case, because 10,000 people come not because of these five stalls, but because of the opening of the market. "

Friedrich Kühn, attorney

In the case of the Berlin late sales, the Berlin Greens are in favor of a special permit: These are mostly small family-run shops that mainly sell drinks, tobacco and groceries. Despite the prohibition and high fines, they are often open on Sundays because the Sunday income is vital for them to survive. The “Späti” has cult status for the Berlin population.

In times of globalization, when you can shop around the clock in New York and Tokyo, when clothes and groceries are just a click away on the Internet, is a sheltered Sunday still appropriate?

"We are not only fighting for Sunday as church Sunday, but also for it to be preserved for us as a society as a cultural asset. And the spiritual elevation does not only have to take place in the divine service, it can always take place."

Philipp Büttner, Protestant church service in the world of work