Ex-minister says court ruling on religion classes reminiscent of ‘dark decade of ’50s’

Ex-minister says court ruling on religion classes reminiscent of ‘dark decade of ’50s’

Former education minister Nikos Filis criticized a ruling by the Council of State that deemed as unconstitutional reforms to religion classes at schools introduced by him and his successor in 2017.

“The ruling of the CoS returns education back to the dark decade of the 1950s and the Greek-Christian Constitution of 1952,” Filis, who was education minister from September 2016 to November 2017, said in a statement.

“The jurisprudence will lead to an impasse in education, raise issues of consciousness and ultimately lead to the course becoming optional.”

The SYRIZA central committee member explained that, based on the logic of this ruling, all curricula introduced since 2000 should not have been implemented, because in all of them, to a greater or lesser extent, the development of “religious consciousness” stipulated in the 1975 Constitution was not construed as a catechism in Orthodoxy.

In its ruling, the country's highest administrative court deemed that the reforms by the SYRIZA government relating to the teaching of religion in primary and secondary schools violated not only the Greek constitution but also European human rights treaties.

In its reasoning, the court said that religious affairs classes "should seek to develop the Orthodoox Christian conscience and that this lesson should be directed exclusively at Orthodox Christian pupils."

Pupils who have other faiths or are atheist should have the right not to follow those classes and should not be obliged to do so, the ruling said, adding that the pupils in question can submit a written request to be excused. In the event that a sufficient number of pupils forgo those classes, the state is obliged to hold a different class for them during that time slot, it said.

The education ministry had vowed in 2016 to scrap the catechistic character of religious classes, with then education minister Nikos Filis insisting that they should become more like religious studies, triggering a storm of protests emanating from the Church and more conservative strands of society.

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