Russian pupils to have choice of religion, ethics

Barvikha, Russia - Russia's president has announced a pilot project in which schoolchildren will have to take classes in religion or secular ethics.

Tuesday's proposal is part of a Kremlin effort to teach young Russians morals in the wake of a turbulent period of uncertainty following the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union.

President Dmitry Medvedev said preteen students at about 12,000 schools nationwide would take the classes. They will be offered the choice of studying the dominant Russian Orthodox religion, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism; or an overview covering various faiths; or secular ethics.

The offer of a choice appeared aimed to ease concerns that Russian Orthodoxy will be forced on schoolchildren as the church gains influence and tightens ties with the state.