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Leader of Germany’s Protestants Resigns after DUI Arrest

posted 11:02 PM EST, Wed February 24, 2010
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Bishop Margot Kaessmann has resigned her position as head of Germany’s Protestant Church after her arrest on DUI charges on Saturday.

Bishop Margot Kaessmann, the head of the Protestant Church in Germany, has resigned in response to her arrest four days ago on charges of driving under the influence.

Bishop Kaessmann, 51, had been appointed with strong support to head the 25 million member church only last year.

Police stopped Kaessmann on Saturday evening for running a red light. Prosecutors say the officers found a woman who was ‘obviously unfit to drive’ and who registered a blood alcohol level of 0.154 – more than three times Germany’s legal limit.

In a statement to reporters, Bishop Kaessmann said, "I am shocked at myself that I could have made such a grave error. I know how dangerous and irresponsible drink driving is.” Apologizing for her actions, the church leader also announced her resignation from all church responsibilities, saying, "My heart says quite clearly that I cannot remain in office with the authority that is required. I would no longer have in the future the same freedom that I have had to name and judge ethical and political challenges."

A breast cancer survivor, a recent divorcee and a mother of 4, the bishop had delivered high profile leadership to a Church with a declining membership. Regarded almost as a pop star from her frequent appearances on TV and in tabloids, Kaessmann did have her critics, some of which objected to a divorced person holding the church’s highest position and others who objected to her political involvement, particularly after she condemned Germany’s military role in Afghanistan in a sermon earlier this year.

Chancellor Merkel stated that she accepted the resignation "with respect and regret".  

Kaessmann faces fines equivalent to a month’s salary and a year’s suspension of her driver’s license for her infraction.

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