Church slams move on religious lessons

The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece yesterday condemned a government initiative that gives schoolchildren the right not to attend religious education classes without their parents having to provide a reason, saying that it is a violation of the Constitution. Meanwhile, a new circular distributed by the Education and Religion Ministry notes that schoolchildren who choose to skip RE lessons will be obliged to attend Greek language lessons or another class on a subject in which they are slacking. But the Holy Synod called for the enforcement of a circular issued by the ministry in 2006, which allows schoolchildren to skip RE classes only if their parents provide the school with a written explanation. «Religious education classes are compulsory for Greek Orthodox pupils, in accordance with Article 16 of the Constitution,» the Holy Synod said in a statement. The ministry’s initiative also provoked the ire of the dean of the Theology School of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, Ioannis Kogoulis. In a letter to Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, Kogoulis said the initiative «boosts the efforts of all those who seek to ignore, conceal or distort the sacrifices and contribution of the Orthodox Church to the nation.»