Patriarchate Insists On Religious Courses

The Russian Orthodox Church is continuing to insist on the introduction of a religion course on to the school program. In the past, religious leaders were cautious about voicing their demands, but yesterday, Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk, who heads the Moscow Patriarchate's administration openly demanded that Bible studies be put on the curriculum. Vremya Novostei quotes him as saying, "There is nothing to fear," as he referred to school practices in Western Europe.

The metropolitan proposed introducing the religious course on a voluntary basis. He believes Orthodox religion should be taught at schools in regions where the majority of the population is Orthodox, whereas the basics of Islam should be taught in regions where the population is predominantly Muslim.

He insists that the introduction of religious courses will not threaten the secular character of education in Russian schools.

Metropolitan Kliment believes a religious studies course proposed by the Education Ministry will be too hard for children to follow. The course on the Church's basics of the Orthodox culture, on the contrary, will allow pupils to get acquainted with moral principles of Orthodoxy, understand the historical roots of the Russian culture and the Orthodox mindset of Russian people.

The Moscow Patriarchate has been asking the authorities to allow religious studies at schools for a long time. However, the Church and the State still have not come to an agreement on the issue. In the last three years, the Education Ministry sometimes seemed to have succumbed to the demands of religious leaders, and sometimes distanced itself from the Church, insisting on the secular character of state education.

Education Minister Andrei Fursenko sticks to a compromise position. He is willing to allow religious courses at schools if they are taught by secular teachers as part of the history and culture curriculum. Recently, the minister confirmed his decision when he visited the regions.