At present, the Federal Constitution for the Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz – GG) includes one phrase referring to culture and the arts: “The arts and science, research, and teaching shall be free.” (Article 5.III GG). According to the interpretation of the Constitutional Court, this clause not only stipulates a right for creative artists to be protected from state interference but also mandates the state to preserve and promote culture and the arts.
This principle was explicitly reaffirmed in Article 35 of the 1990 Unification Treaty. In the past two decades, there have been efforts to insert a more precise “cultural clause” or to include culture among the main goals of the state in the federal constitution. The last of these proposals was issued in 2005 by the Commission of Inquiry set up by the German Parliament entitled “Culture in Germany”. In contrast to the Federal Constitution, the majority of the federal states’ (Länder) Constitutions address the arts and culture more specifically – the only exception being the city-state of Hamburg. Three of the federal states (Länder) – Bavaria, Brandenburg and Saxony – include culture among the main goals of the state in clauses such as: “Bavaria is a legal, cultural and social state” (Article 3.I). Similar or identical to the clause in Article 3.III GGof the Federal Constitution, basic protective rights are found in 11 of the federal states’ (Länder) Constitutions. Furthermore, provisions regarding authors’ rights can also be found in e. g. the constitution of Hessen: “The rights of authors, inventors and artists enjoy the protection of the state.” (Article 46)
Most constitutions of the federal states (Länder) include pledges for public support of the arts or cultural development, e. g. in clauses such as: “The Land protects and supports cultural life” (Berlin, Article 20.II). In addition, many of the Constitutions oblige the authorities to foster public involvement in the arts and culture, e. g. “The whole people should be given the opportunity to make use of the cultural goods of life.” (Rhineland-Palatinate, Article 40.III)
Many federal states’ (Länder) constitutions include legal obligations with regard to specific public responsibilities, such as in the field of heritage protection or adult education and some mention the promotion and protection of cultural traditions of ethnic minorities. In a wider context, some clauses propose cultural goals for the educational system, such as in the constitution of Bavaria: “Openness to everything that is just, good and beautiful” (Article 131.II) or Thuringia: “Peace-loving and living together with other cultures and peoples” (Article 22).
In May 2019 the 70th anniversary of the Federal Constitution was celebrated.