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People and Politics Forum 27. 02. 2009

"Should schools provide religion classes?"

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More Information:

Religion or Ethics -- Should School Children in Berlin be Allowed to Choose?

Should Religious Education be reinstated as a regular subject in Berlin schools? In the German capital, all children currently have to take Ethics as a subject, but not necessarily Religion. The Catholic and Lutheran Churches decided that wasn't good enough, and launched a giant petition, collecting enough signatures to force a public referendum on the matter. Their aim: all children between 7th and 10th grade should be given the choice whether they want to study Ethics or Religious Education. The question at the heart of the matter is: who is responsible for passing on the Christian values, entrenched in German culture, to today's generations? The state or the church?

Our Question is:

"Should schools provide religion classes?"

Danilo Pauco Jr., Philippinen:

"I believe that the school should provide religion classes. Its very suitable and its great when they will include Religion Classes in their Curriculum especially if they will add a Values Education - how they will apply it in a nomal way of living. We should focus that its not only teaching religion nor values education, the important thing is how we apply in our daily life. Teaching religion in school doesn‘t necessarily mean that it‘s already affecting the goverment ... it is still separate from it."

Thom Larsen, USA:

"Religion in schools should be taught. But it should teach all aspects to students. The purpose of school is to broaden your views."

Lee Davis, from the USA wants balance:

"I am a Catholic a nd I am a supporter of the separation of church and state. We have to learn more about other religions and cultures."

Douglas Ort, from Thailand hits hard with his answer:

"Schools should be teaching knowledge, not nonsense."

Gerhard Seeger from the Philippines says:

"As far as I recall, church and state are separate, which relieves the state of the responsibility for teaching religion. Religious freedom, however, gives churches the right to offer and to conduct classes in religion. State-funded schools could offer them facilities to teach religion, but the organization of said courses should be left to the church, and it goes without saying that school pupils must be able to decide for themselves if they want to attend such classes."

From Canada, Klaus Uhle goes against the reader-response flow:

"I am for retaining religion classes. Our western societies are based on the tenets of Christianity, and we should not allow this Christian foundation to be simply tossed out by left-wing politicians who -in a Berlin milieu that is strongly influenced by the atheistic former East Germany, see themselves in a strong position..."

Heinz Laux from Germany worries about a more insidious trend:

"I’m shocked that today’s show would even ask the question whether religion or ethics should be taught. Have things in Berlin reached the point where we can ask such a question? Proponents of Islam have managed to achieve that their religion may be taught in schools. The discussion about allowing the Muslim headscarf to be worn by teachers in state institutions is constantly coming up –unbelievable! How long will it take us to finally realize how quickly the world is being taken over by Islam? And we just sit there and watch! Let’s try raising the same question in Muslim countries: you wouldn’t get out of there alive!"

Amin Zoqurti from Jordan makes it clear what belongs where:

"If you want to learn a religion, go to church. Religion does not belong in schools."

Germany’s Klaus Bönning, cites the faults of the past:

"Protestants to the left and Catholics to the right; Muslims and Jehovah Witnesses, you get the hour off. What’s going on here? As a school child thirty years ago I already asked myself that question. Ethics should be a compulsory course."

Martin Burmeister from Venezuela sees a broader benefit to be had:

"I’m for ethics classes that teach about the history, values, foundations and rules of the different religions. School children should have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the fundamental differences among the religions. The teacher conducting such a course needs to be 100% knowledgeable on the subject, objective and unprejudiced."

Erwin Scholz from Costa Rica puts his answer to rhyme:

"Is Ethics instead of religion cool?

To mercy the numerous pupils in school,

Will there be God and a son

without any teaching going on."

Andrei Bolshoi from the USA worries about a slippery slide backwards:

"What century is it?! Should the myth of Santa be studied at schools as well?(...) Religion has been the cause of division and conflict in so many places, so many times. Imposing Christian values in Europe will backfire in Islamic alienation and extremism in Europe. European states should be secular, religion is a private matter."

René Junghans of Brazil opposes mandatory religious instruction:

"Under no circumstances should religion be a mandatory subject because it clearly infringes upon religious freedom. What should be the standard for deciding who educates a Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Orthodox or atheist? It’s each person’s right to decide what religion he or she would like to belong to. Mandatory religion classes can lead to discrimination against minorities who don’t want to profess their beliefs in public. I was raised as a Christian, a Protestant, but I wouldn’t like to see my son educated as a Catholic – or a Protestant – against his will and discriminated against for refusing to participate. Religious freedom must be guaranteed; only then can each person feel truly free ... The government or schools should not be allowed to involve themselves in religious questions."

Herbert Fuchs, Finland, disagrees:

"Yes, with certainty, it’s a part of our very existence, even when we don’t always understand it completely. A person needs a knowing guide for the moral and ethical issues in life. To this day, this is very important as a means of keeping our society and our culture in moral balance. Young people with a stable upbringing in any religion, regardless of which religion it is, become balanced, honest, upstanding and more specifically, sincere citizens, not lawless like those without principle. One can’t exaggerate the role of religion – which belongs in school like any other subject – in fostering a normal balance in all aspects of daily life. Then there won’t be any problems."

For Adriano Burali, Liechtenstein, the answer is simple:

"A simple, clear YES!"

Marko Dietzmann of Germany points to the need for ethics education that focuses on multicultural issues:

"I find the idea of deciding this question through a referendum, like the upcoming one in Berlin, quite terrific. Engaged citizens create the necessary pressure for such initiatives, something that speaks both for the people who interest themselves in political affairs and for democracy in general. Wonderful! Personally, I am against mandatory religious instruction and would rather vote for a common ethics course. That’s because I’m of the opinion that in an increasingly multicultural society, one should be instructed in the values, norms and ground rules necessary for living together peacefully. This for me is better than students disappearing into different classrooms for religious instruction, where they’ll only be confronted with their own cultural background instead of comparing it with a common future with others. I see ethics instruction as a way to foster learning about a variety of cultures and to engender not only tolerance, but also an integrated character, making it easier for migrants to navigate new surroundings. This type of course should serve as a means of discussion, not indoctrination. In any case, I continue to hope that our base values will be conveyed insightfully, convincingly, and also critically. But to offer religious education as a voluntary additional course is something I would also support."

Germany’s W. Rösler prefers ethics education that keeps church and state separate:

"Communicating moral and ethical values, especially to young people, must be a fundamental concern of our society, now more than ever. Just as important is a clear separation of church and state. It is acceptable for each student to take part in ethical instructions; in this way, the state meets its obligation in communicating proper values. This obligation shouldn’t be delegated to members of the church ... additional participation in religious courses should be, at its very foundation, voluntary."

Rolf Bockmühl, the Philippines, delivers a clear answer:

"No, under no circumstances. We must finally come to the point where religion has no place in state life. In addition to eliminating the church tax in Germany, church and state must be held strictly separate. Teaching in schools must be free of religious trends. Accordingly, ethics must be fleshed out for students as a means of instilling German virtues and values in young people. Free of religious influence, like any other subject. By now, plenty of cultural values have become a firm part of our young democracy, and these values are worth conveying."

Gustaf Wölfle from the USA is a proponent of religious education:

"Religious instruction in schools: Yes! Even during the Third Reich it was common to teach religion in a sectarian manner – why should it be a question today? It’s not just religious instruction, it’s about the "development of a worldview."

Marco Schopferer, Guatemala, disputes the question completely:

"You should be ashamed! To this day I’ve never seen such a biased report on People & Politics. Like hell would I take part in a poll like this. For that I’ll go straight to the Internet search engines to spend money in campaigns against religious advocates."

Karl Heinrich Pflumm from the United States says religious instruction is up to the individual:

"I am personally opposed to teaching a particular religion in public schools. If you want to teach religion in school, you need to teach all of the different religions or none, or otherwise you are fostering a biased environment. I am of the opinion that religious teachings of any sort should not be allowed in public schools. It is a personal decision and should be taught in your church ..."

The editorial staff of ‘People and Politics’ reserves the right to shorten letters received.