GHDI logo

Edict on Religion by Johann Christoph von Wöllner, Prussian Minister of Justice and Head of Religious Affairs, cosigned by King Frederick William II, and various Ministers (July 9, 1788)

page 3 of 3    print version    return to list previous document      next document

§ 8. As the territorial lord and sole law-giver in our states, we thus command and order that henceforth no clergy, preacher, or teacher of the Protestant religion, on pain of inescapable dismissal, and even harsher punishment and sanction at our discretion, be guilty of the errors indicated in § 7 above, or of even more, in the sense that he undertakes to spread such errors in the exercise of his office or in some other way, publicly or secretly. [ . . . ] Every teacher of Christianity in our lands who professes one of these three confessions must and shall teach what the doctrine of his respective religious party, once laid down and fixed, brings with it, for this he is obligated to do by his office, his duty, and the condition under which he is employed in his post. If he teaches anything else, he is already punishable under civil laws and can no longer properly keep his post. Our serious will is therefore directed at maintaining this immutable order, though we happily grant the clergy in our lands freedom of conscience equal to that of our other subjects, and are far from constraining their inner convictions to even the slightest degree. Thus any teacher of the Christian religion who possesses a conviction in matters of faith that differs from the one prescribed by the doctrine of his confession, can surely retain this conviction at his own risk, for we do not wish to arrogate rule over his conscience; except that, even by his own conscience he would have to cease being a teacher of his church. [ . . . ]

§ 9. Our Ecclesiastical Department, of both the Reformed and the Lutheran confession, is thus hereby instructed to always keep an eye on the entire clergy in our lands, so that every teacher in churches and schools does his duty, and observes precisely what has been said in the preceding §8. [ . . . ]

§. 10. In accordance with what has been said, we therefore order the respective heads of the two Ecclesiastical Departments, as graciously as earnestly, to make it their chief concern that the parishes as well as the chairs of theology at our universities, no less than the school offices, be staffed by subjects whose inner conviction about what they are supposed to teach publicly raises no cause for doubt; all aspirants and candidates who express other principles must and should be turned away without delay, wherein we shall always grant these two ministers free power and authority.

§ 11. With all of this having sufficiently shown that we are very serious about preserving the Christian religion in our states, and promoting true piety among the people, to the extent that it is within our power; we therefore admonish all our loyal subjects to diligently pursue a regular and pious way of life, and we will know how to value the man of religion and virtue on every occasion, because no unconscionable and evil man can ever be a good subject, let alone a loyal servant of the state on either the large or small scale. [ . . . ]

§ 13. The ecclesiastical estate shall not be despised and disdained by anyone, let alone mocked: this is something we will always note with great displeasure, and we will not let it go unpunished, because only too often it has an unavoidable influence on the contempt for religion itself. [ . . . ]

Source of original German text: Acten, Urkunden und Nachrichten zur neuesten Kirchengeschichte [Files, Documents, and Reports on Recent Church History], vol. 1 (part 6). Weimar: Christian Wilhelm Schneider (1788), pp. 461-79.

Reprinted in Walter Demel and Uwe Puschner, eds., Von der Französischen Revolution bis zum Wiener Kongreß 1789-1815 [From the French Revolution to the Congress of Vienna, 1789-1815]. Deutsche Geschichte in Quellen und Darstellung, edited by Rainer A. Müller, Volume 6. Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1995, pp. 189-94.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

first page < previous   |   next > last page