Germany: Berlin boys' choir sued over gender discrimination

The choir contends that the girl’s rejection was 'not predominantly about her gender'

Saturday 17 August, BERLIN – A 9-year-old girl is suing a centuries-old Berlin boys’ choir, arguing that her bid to join was only rejected because of her gender, in a case that has sparked debate over equal rights versus artistic freedom.

The State and Cathedral Choir is one of the most renowned boys’ choirs in Germany, founded in 1465 by Fredrick II of Brandenburg. Over its 554 years, it has never admitted any girls.

Berlin Cathedral

The girl, whose identity was not revealed to protect her privacy, auditioned with the choir in March and was rejected, according to the Berlin administrative court that is to rule on the suit.

The choir contends the girl’s rejection was 'not predominantly about her gender' and she would have been asked to join if she had displayed extraordinary talent and motivation and 'if her voice had matched the desired sound characteristics of a boys’ choir,' the court said.

The choir also expressed doubt it would have been able to work with the girl’s parents.

The girl’s mother, who brought the complaint on her daughter’s behalf, argues the choir’s rejection is discriminatory 'in an impermissible way' and violates her right to equal opportunities from an institution receiving state funds, the court said.

The case has elicited strong feelings, with many weighing in on the side of the choir, arguing that it’s less about talent than about tone, and that mixing the choir would bring an end to a traditional sound.

Writing for the influential Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung newspaper, society columnist Hannah Bethke said 'nobody has said girls can’t sing as well.' She added:

'But the timbre is different, and judging that should be left to the musicians and the musicologists ... Anyone who wants to enforce a misunderstood gender equality here sacrifices a cultural asset.'

Some 250 boys and young men aged between 5 and 25 belong to the State and Cathedral Choir’s 11 different choir groups.

They perform in the city’s landmark cathedral and have toured across Europe, the United States, Japan, Russia and Israel.

Boys between 5 and 7 without musical experience and experienced older boys can audition and will receive qualified training free of charge if they’re accepted, according to the choir’s website.

Editor's comment - There are spurious gender discrimination claims springing up all over the Western world, taking advantage of numerous weaknesses enabled by the current fad for political correctness. Some common sense and objectivity from the columnist Hannah Bethke is very welcome.

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