Russia To Offer Religion Courses In Public Schools

Responding to a strong push from religious leaders, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced a national program to teach religion in the country’s public schools.

 

Parents can choose classes from four federally recognized religions – the Russian Orthodox Church, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – as well as a course in the history of religion or one in secular ethics. The classes will be taught by lay teachers.

 

Medvedev believes that giving students the option to take a course in secular ethics will appease those who claim religion in the schools violates the Russian Constitution’s promise of church-state separation.

 

At the same time, the Russian Orthodox Church will be able to offer its course called “Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture.” The church has lobbied hard to get this course into schools for years.

 

The church’s power has continued to increase since the fall of the Soviet Union. In July, Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I received a promise from elected leaders of the United Russia Party, the country’s largest political unit, that he would be permitted to preview all legislation introduced in the Russian parliament.

 

This is a privilege not shared by any other religious community in Russia.