Last July, 33-year-old Mithat Gedik was crowned Schützenkönig (marksman king) by his local club in Werl, North Rhine-Westphalia – only to have his title withheld because the organization's ancient statute meant that non-Christians were ineligible to claim the crown.
The Bund der Historischen Deutschen Schützenbruderschaften (BHDS - Federation of HIstoric German Marksmanship Brotherhoods) club then granted him the prize as an 'exception' after the case was taken up and condemned by anti-discrimination authorities.
Because the actions of the BHDS did not reflect "accessible and open fostering of tradition", its application to receive UNESCO World Heritage status was suspended, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported, citing a letter sent to Europe's main shooting association, the EGS.
The BHDS in turn condemned the ruling for its "near-racist" formulation.
While not naming Gedik or the town and club, UNESCO Germany informed the BHDS that it had observed "brusque and exclusionary reactions" in its ranks regarding prize winners who "did not conform to 'biological German' criteria".
"It refers of course to Werl-Sönnern," BHDS spokesman Rolf Nieborg told the newspaper. "But they have not understood that we have espoused Christian values for more than 800 years, not just in Germany but in many other European countries."
"We expect the same tolerance from them as they expect from us," he said.
The BHDS complained to the UNESCO committee about the notification. It then received an apology for the wording and was told that it no longer had to resubmit its application to receive recognized cultural status as initially instructed, according to Nieborg.
"We are now waiting to see what final outcome the committee reaches," he added.
Strictly speaking, Gedik is not even allowed to be a member of his shooting society because section two of its statute dates that it is an “association of Christian people”.
Gedik, who was born to Turkish parents and grew up in Germany, studied Catholicism at school and lives with his German wife and four children in Werl.
He also volunteers at the fire department and is on the board of his local shooting club, all of which made it "incomprehensible" to him that such a situation should arise in the 21st Century, he told media in August.
The BHDS then convened a special meeting at which it made an exception in Gedik's case, allowing him to keep his title. But he was disbarred from competing at the county shooting championships, despite winning his town’s competition.
North Rhine-Westphalia's integration ministry also criticized the decision.
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