By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
A secularist association yesterday protested against a secret protocol singed by the Ministry of Education and the Romanian Orthodox Church which allows, among others, representatives of the church to have the final say when a religion teacher is hired in a school.
The Humanist-Secular Association in Romania (ASUR) called on the Ministry of Education to reveal to the public the content of the protocol signed with the Patriarchy and the State Secretariat for Cults and is expressing “its extreme concern over the manner in which the Romanian Orthodox Church receives new rights of intrusion in the education system”, reads a press release of the association.
ASUR called on all those who are supportive of the state secularism to take pictures of themselves in front of a school or a public institution while holding a pro-secularism banner and then post the pictures on social networks.
“The Orthodox Church’s interference in public schools has to stop! It wasn’t enough that orthodox priests were appointed religion school inspectors, now diocesan priests have unhindered access to schools even though they have no connection to the Ministry of Education’s structure! What is the purpose of such a protocol (…) why the state authority is subordinated to the Church’s in public schools?” ASUR also wondered.
ASUR’s reaction comes days after the Ministry of Education signed a protocol with the Romanian Orthodox Church but which the two institutions didn’t make public. The text mentions that a religion teacher cannot be hired without receiving the green light from the local priest while the latter’s motivated withdrawal of support leads to the teacher’s dismissal. The protocol also allows priests to inspect teachers during religion classes.
Defending the protocol, minister of Education, Remus Pricopie, said that was tantamount to Church’s intrusion in the public education, but merely observes the peculiarity of the religion classes, just the way medical of military schools have a different pattern. “It is absolutely normal that when it comes to other specific education types, such as the Faculty of Theology, when we regulate something we take into account the peculiarity of this type” he argued, as quoted by Mediafax. He also added the protocol needed to be signed because new laws on education have been passed since 1990.
ASUR has previously reacted to cases in which parents of children that had been withdrawn from religion classes complained of subsequent harassment children were later submitted to. With religion classes inserted in the middle of the daily schedule, children who gave up these classes were forced to stay inside the classrooms and attend the religion class. Authorities say pupils are forced to attend these classes even if they decided to skip them in order to be supervised. ASUR asked that religion classes are scheduled ether at the beginning or the end of the day classes so that children who do not want to attend them can come to school later or leave earlier.