BVerwG on freedom of religion: a compulsory helmet for Sikhs

Since 2013, a Sikh supporter has been fighting with the German courts. Now the BVerwG has finally decided: The duty of the helmet when riding a motorbike is not deviated for religious reasons in principle.


The long-standing conflict between the city of Koblenz and a Sikh sympathizer is settled by a decision of the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG). Although the man must remove his turban to drive a motorbike to be able to do his hair, it is out of the question to free the helmet for religious reasons, according to the decision of the Leipzig judges (judgment of 04.07.2019, Az BVerwG 3 C 24,17).

Already in 2013, the man had asked the city of Koblenz for a waiver, which freed him from the obligation to wear a protective helmet when driving a motorcycle. By way of argument, he argued that the obligation to wear a helmet set out in Article 21, paragraph 2, sentence 1 of the Highway Code (StVO) hurt him as a convinced Sikh in his freedom of religion protected by the Constitution, since he was obliged to wear a turban and that each helmet was too small to be protected. to put it on the turban.

However, the city rejected the request and referred to Article 46 (1) No. 5b StVO, according to which such an exception could only be made for health reasons. The Administrative Court of Karlsruhe (VG) also stressed to the man that it was not possible to free himself from the obligation to wear a helmet for religious reasons.

But, quite simply, the case was not, as indicated by the judges of the administrative court of Baden-Württemberg (VGH) in the context of the appeal. In his opinion, religious reasons are in principle appropriate to request an exemption from the obligation to wear a helmet. However, it must override the interest of those who rely on freedom of religion. In the context of the examination, it must be taken into account that the obligation to wear the helmet also protects other road users. After the verdict of the VGH, the city of Koblenz had to rule again on the exemption. But even with the new decision of the Sikh partisans had the disadvantage, the case came to Leipzig.

BVerwG: Helm also protects others, no other special reasons

There, the man was beaten as part of the review before the BVerwG with his concerns. In the opinion of the highest administrative magistrates, the protective helmets, by intervening in the religious freedom of the man, thus waive the obligation for him to be obliged to wear the turban. . However, the interference was justified by other legal interests protected by the Constitution.

Because the obligation to wear a helmet would not only protect the motorcyclists themselves, but – as the VGH has already quite rightly stated – from other road users. According to the Federal Administrative Court, for example, they could be traumatized by accidental death or the occurrence of serious injuries in a motorcyclist unprotected by a hard hat. In addition, a motorcyclist equipped with a helmet is more likely to be able to provide first aid at the scene of the accident.

A request for exemption from the obligation to wear a helmet could therefore exist at best if one can not expect man to give up riding a motorcycle for particular reasons. However, according to the BVerwG, such reasons are not given because the man also had a driving license for a car.

Tik / LTO-Redaktion