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Promoting the higher interest of the child in religious education
Monitoring religious education in Romania’s public schools

Religious education in public schools in Romania is marred by a series of flaws that run contrary to children’s rights to dignity, protection against abuse, non-discrimination, education, and freedom of conscience, including the consideration of children’s options. The Romanian Constitution acknowledges the right to religious education. Most importantly, the child’s higher interest enjoys precedence in the context of education as well. Nevertheless, religious education had already developed to a stable configuration before these values and principles were first codified legally through Law no. 272/2004 on the protection and promotion of children’s rights. So far, the following disturbing facts have been identified:
• Teaching of religion in Romania’s public schools is organised on confessional lines (i.e., teaches the precepts of a particular faith).
• The Romanian public school system does not respect the initial facultative legal status of teaching religion in public schools, at the contrary, in practice, religion is compulsory at all educational levels.
• Religion teachers, often priests, are subordinated to both Ministry of Education and Research and the religious cults. Teachers need a formal approval of the cult to be allowed to teach religion.
• Religious minorities are discriminated and in several occasions obliged to participate in religious rituals, prayers, ceremonies of the majority  Orthodox Church.
• The ubiquity of religious icons or other religious symbols (in the vast majority of cases Christian Orthodox) in classrooms, now frequently doubled by Orthodox places of worship built within the school premises, especially in the large urban centres. These practices may engender segregation and feelings of rejection among children coming from non-Orthodox or non-religious families.
• Religion textbooks and curricula include intolerant and offending  opinions on other religions and beliefs than the majority  Christian Orthodox Church.
• As currently designed, religious education is confessional in content, dogmatic in doctrine, and involves the practice of religious rituals during classes. Practically speaking, religion classes are used for catechization. Especially when they involve very young children, they completely blur the distinction between freely expressed religious options and indoctrination.
• Religious indoctrination in schools is funded by public money, as religion teachers (many of which are priests without educational training and wearing religious attire in class) are paid by the state rather than the parishes.
• Children and parents are ill informed, and often deliberately kept in the dark, about the elective status of religion classes. Often, children who want to abandon the religion class or refuse to enrol in religion classes are pressured into acceptance by the teachers.
• Religion classes are even used by teachers to promote intolerance toward different or vulnerable groups (ethnic, religious, sexual minorities etc.).
This book comprises a detailed analysis of religious education and religious practices in Romania’s public schools, as well as the evaluation of the opinions expressed by teachers and students in 3750 questionnaires applied in schools from all the regions of the country.
The book concludes with a list of recommendations for a substantial reform of the teaching of religion in Romania’s public schools.


This project has been supported by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Romania in the frame of the MATRA - KAP Small Projects Program.