German Plan for "Values" Education Stirs Concern

Course Would Replace Religious Instruction, Warn Bishops

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BERLIN, MAY 19, 2005 ( German bishops are concerned about the Senate’s proposal to introduce a compulsory course on “values” in the public schools.

The bishops fear that the course would cause religion classes to disappear altogether.

“The class on religion is a subject recognized throughout the state, appreciated by parents and students,” the German bishops noted in a statement. “No one seriously argues that concern with religious and ethical questions does not belong to the educational endeavor of the school.

“But religion cannot be transmitted without religiosity. This is true for the Christian faith, but also for other religions. The Christian message can be taught in a convincing way only by those who share its essence.”

The statement continued: “It is to be feared that in this new compulsory subject information will be given without regard to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions, and that values will be treated in a general way. This is opposed to the seriousness with which religious and ethical formation should be imparted in the school.

“In fact, students need to learn ethics, philosophy and religion. Whoever wants to have direction in a pluralist and globalized world has need of trustworthy measures of values. Religion is an autonomous dimension of human life. Students have a fundamental right to religious freedom; this is why it is necessary that they learn to use religious freedom.”

Moreover, “religious competence can protect from fundamentalism and fanaticism. It is part of a complete formation,” the statement added.

Moreover, “20th-century German history has demonstrated the limits of state monopoly of education. And this is why the constitution is made the guarantor of religious communities, of the contents of the faith, and of the transmission in public schools of their orientation in regard to values,” it said.

Berlin’s Jewish community, the Archdiocese of Berlin, and the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Upper Lusatia have launched a campaign of signatures to oppose the Senate’s decision.

Among those who have already signed are Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky of Berlin; Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz and president of the German episcopate; Bishop Wolfgang Huber of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Upper Lusatia and president of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany; and Albert Meyer of Berlin’s Jewish community.

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