Taxi Driver Fined for Displaying Bible Verse

Country: Germany

Date of incident: February 20, 2024

A taxi driver from the German town of Essen was fined for displaying a small Bible verse sticker on the rear window of his car. The city authorities claim that the Bible verse constitutes "religious advertising", which is illegal on taxis which are regarded as part of the public transport.

Jalil Mashali, a taxi driver who has lived in Germany for 22 years after leaving his home country Iran and later converted to Christianity due to a personal experience, displayed a small Bible verse sticker reading "Jesus - I am the way. The truth. And the life" on the rear window of his taxi. In October 2023 he received a letter from the road traffic authority claiming that he was displaying illegal "religious advertising" and was threatened with a fine up to 1,000 euros if he failed to respond to authorities and removed the sticker. 

After declining to remove the Bible verse, Mr. Mashali received an actual fine of 88.50 euros on February 20 and has now announced to challenge the fine. He argues that the sticker does not constitute advertising due to the content, the small size, and the placement (on the back of the car, while advertising on taxis is normally on the side doors).

According to ADF International, who are supporting the case, Mr. Mashali commented: "Jesus is the best thing I could recommend to anyone because he changed my life. That's why I have the sticker on my car for anyone who is interested to see. I'm not looking to cause trouble, but I haven't done anything wrong. I am grateful for this country where everyone should be free to share their faith. I hope to be able to continue to do so by appealing the unjust fine." Mr. Mashali further said to the press that freedom of expression is protected in Germany, contrary to his home country Iran where he would have been jailed or even killed for sharing his faith. 

While Germany's jurisprudence has so far confirmed the ordinance forbidding "religious advertising" on taxis as constitutional, the classification of a mere Bible verse as advertising is seen as a problematic human rights infringement by religious freedom organisations and churches. 

Sources: CNA, ADF International, Weltwoche

Image: ADF International