Vivienneâ€™s parents, Stefano and Elisa, filed a complaint in an administrative court to contest the actions of the Board. They argued that the daylong religious services provide an opportunity to worship God as a family and to build faith. They stated: â€œThe conventions are an annual highlight and a special occasion in our religious practice.â€
Â The court ruled in favor of the parents, recognizing that the annual regional conventions of Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses are religious holidays. The Board appealed, arguing that the conventions of Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses are not religious holidays because they are festive events, not special days that are considered holy, such as Christmas, Easter, or national holidays.
On JulyÂ 27,Â 2015, the Higher Administrative Court of Hesse upheld the lower courtâ€™s decision. The higher court declared that the definition of a religious holiday depends solely upon the religious associationâ€™s own view. The court saw the clear separation between religious affairs and those of the State, stating: â€œOtherwise the State would infringe upon the autonomy guaranteed in the Basic Law [that is, Constitution of Germany] to churches and religious and ideological associations and upon their independence in their own sphere.â€ The State is â€œobligated to maintain ideological and religious neutrality.â€
The higher court also referenced the official website of Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses, which explains that the Witnesses consider their conventions to be religious holidays. The court stated that in rejecting the Falconesâ€™ request for their daughter to be excused from school, the Board â€œmisjudged the childâ€™s right to religious freedom .Â .Â . as well as the right of parents .Â .Â . to train children as to religion and ideology.â€ The court concluded that the Boardâ€™s â€œopinion runs contrary to the neutrality required of the State.â€
â€œParticipation in a simple ceremonial religious event can constitute a special reason to be exempted from school lessons.â€â€”Higher Administrative Court of Hesse