Staunton, September 20 – Russia’s education ministry has proposed dropping courses about Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism from the school curriculum, retaining in this segment only courses devoting to world religions and civic ethics, an action that already has infuriated some, most seriously the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The synod’s department for religious education and catechism has released a statement denouncing this move, arguing that it violates the rights of parents and children and calling on the government to revisit the issue by having a broad public discussion in which the ROC MP wants to take part (rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=85906).
If the government goes through with the plan to drop courses on specific faiths, it will further intensify tensions between the Kremlin and the Patriarchate which has made the introduction of such courses a priority. It is also likely to annoy some in Russia’s three other “traditional” faiths.
But if the religious are certain to be opposed, liberal Russian opinion will be on the other side. Indeed, Nezavsimaya gazeta headlined its upbeat report about this development “Religious Segregation May Leave the Primary School” (ng.ru/news/658291.html). What is now likely is a recapitulation of the debate which surrounded the introduction of such courses in the first place.
The big difference is that this time the government will be starting as an opponent of such instruction rather than as a major force pushing for it.