Former German President Richard von Weizsacker has accused the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit (SPD), of dividing the city after the failed referendum on upgrading religious education. Wowereit rejected the accusation on Wednesday. She said it was wrong and a distortion of the facts to speak of a division of the city in view of the clear defeat of the "Pro Reli" initiative in the referendum last Sunday.
Weizsacker had attacked Wowereit in a guest article for the "Bild" newspaper (Wednesday edition). The result of the referendum on religious education shows "that a deep rift runs through the city on ies of this kind," wrote Weizsacker, who was governing mayor of the then still divided city from 1981 to 1984. At the same time, he accused Wowereit of being "happy about this crack, of downright cheering it". "We have to expect the governing mayor to build bridges instead of deepening cracks," Weizsacker said.Already on Sunday evening, Berlin Bishop Wolfgang Huber had spoken of a "rift in the city" after the election results, which differed greatly depending on the district, became known, which should not be deepened any further by those with political responsibility. In a radio interview on Monday morning, Wowereit had judged the result as a "resounding slap in the face" for the "Pro Reli" initiative.On Wednesday, Wowereit spoke of a sign of normality in the formerly divided city when discussions are held on individual political decisions and "emotions are aroused". This was no different, he said, in the referendum on the closure of Tempelhof Airport or in the discussion on the demolition of the Palace of the Republic.The initiative "Pro Reli" had clearly failed in the referendum on Sunday. It fell short not only of the quorum of necessary yes votes of a quarter of the Berlin electorate, but also of the majority among the votes cast.Since 2006, at the instigation of the Red-Red Senate, ethics has been a compulsory subject from the 7th grade. Class taught, religious instruction can be attended additionally and voluntarily as before. If the "Pro Reli" initiative had been successful, students would have been able to choose between ethics and religion.