On November 12, 2014, the Constitutional Court of Romania declared religious education in schools unconstitutional, despite the fact that only two years ago a similar request had been rejected.
The Romanian Orthodox Church reacted promptly and firmly, but other Romanian denominations, though similarly affected by the new decision, have not published press releases.
The text of law declared unconstitutional has been in force for 20 years and states as following: “At the written request of the student of age or of the parents or legal tutor, the student can be exempt from religious education classes”.
The motivation for the decision has not yet been published but it will certainly change jurisprudence.
The Romanian Patriarchy press office has released a statement in which they say the decision is discriminatory towards the majority of parents and adds: “Radical change in the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court represents an interference in the legislative power of the state and thus rejects the already-established pattern [of democracy] in Romania.” The statement of the Romanian Orthodox Church goes on to say that many countries in the European Union have a similar treatment of religious education in their laws (part of the common core, denominational approach, with the option not to take it as subject matter at the written request of the student or his/her parents or legal tutor): Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Malta.
“In relation with aspects of freedom of conscience, one can infer that the decision of the Constitutional Court from November 12, 2014 transfers all responsibility to parents, but only for Religion, not for other subject matters. It is obvious they are trying to discourage participation in religious education through excessive bureaucratic measures for most of the parents, favoring a small minority who do not accept religion and despite the fact that religious education is guaranteed through the Constitution”, states the Romanian Orthodox Church.
A regional synod of Orthodox Romanian bishops from the central and the north-western part of the country has also expressed, in an official statement, their concern about the event. The Metropolitan Synod of Cluj, Maramures and Salaj has issued a press release firmly stating about the recent decision of the Constitutional Court of Romania: “A a great injustice has just been made to the children and youngsters who benefit from religious education, because it dismisses their moral education as superfluous. In a symbolical way, this decision tarnishes the freedom earned by young people’s sacrifice in the December 1989 Revolution, whose direct effect in the public space is religious education. It is well-known that our schools suffer under the siege of temptations such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs, early sexualization, language vulgarity and deviant behavior and that the only authorities able to fight these are family, the school and the church.”
The regional synod expressed their surprise not by the fact that there are people who deny this evidence but “by the ease with which a fundamental institution of the state such as the Constitutional Court of Romania rushed to declare the legal provisions making religious studies part of the common curriculum as unconstitutional and discriminatory. The law in force clearly states that the student, with the parents’ acceptance, is free to chose the religion he wants to study and, moreover, is free not to take part in religious studies. So where is the constraint?”
The Metropolitan synod urged Romanian parents, students and all institutions of the state to protect the statute of religious education as part of the common school curriculum.
The clerics say religious education should be viewed not as much as a historical right the Church has gained, but as a part of human condition and the foundation of real morals.
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