Spain's Court Curbs "Moral Indoctrination"

Decision Encourages 51,000 Parent Objectors

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MADRID, Spain, FEB. 20, 2009 ( A Spanish Supreme Court decision encouraged a group of 51,000 parents and teachers to continue the battle against the state’s mandatory citizenship course for children, which objectors describe as moral indoctrination.

The course, «Education for Citizenship,» was introduced in schools last September as a four-year program beginning with children at age 11.

The Spanish bishops’ conference denounced the course for aspects «contrary to Catholic teaching and to authentic humanism, such as moral relativism and gender ideology.»

The former archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, stated in a letter that the course must be revised in accordance with Church teaching before being allowed in Catholic schools, as it imposes a «moral and human formation» that is «not compatible with the Christian vision of man.»

A group of parents and teachers formed, reaching the ranks of 51,000, to claim conscientious objection, and to appeal to the courts for the right to refuse this course for their children.

Some claim that the course is created by the Socialist government to indoctrinate students with secular values. The course prompts teachers to «revise the students’ attitude toward homosexuality,» and teaches that children can choose one of seven genders according to their desires.

Supreme Court decision

Tuesday, the Spanish Supreme Court publicized its Feb. 11 decision on the subject of the citizenship course. It rejects the parents’ right to conscientious objection, saying that no one can opt out of the course due to creed or conscience.

However, the court also decided to allow parents to request the withdrawal of specific course content that, according to their ethical and religious convictions, they regard as implying an indoctrination of their children.

This decision has encouraged objectors to continue the battle to decide what their children will be taught by challenging specific schools and professors on course content. Judges went on strike Wednesday to protest the lack of means to respond to all these demands for justice.

The courts affirmed the «state’s duty of ideological neutrality,» and that it must not use obligatory courses to «attempt to persuade students about ideas and doctrines that […] reflect the taking of positions on problems on which there is no generalized moral consensus in Spanish society.»

The court statement adds that in a democratic society, it is not the role of the schools, teachers or educational administration to make themselves «arbiters of controversial moral questions.»

Citing the highest value of pluralism in society, the statement read that these moral questions belong to «the realm of free debate in civil society — where the vertical professor-student relationship does not exist — and of course to individual consciences.»

One Supreme Court judge, Juan José González Rivas, explained that in this controversy «lies a question of limits of state intervention» and analyzes «the line that separates teaching from indoctrination.»

In a communiqué from the Tomas Moro Juridical Center it was pointed out that this decision moved a sociological division over the citizenship course to a legal level.

Parent observatory

The platform that supports objectors, which includes organizations such as the National Catholic Confederation of Parents of Students, the Spanish Confederation of Teaching Centers, and the Spanish Forum of the Family and Professionals for Ethics, issued a communiqué Tuesday stating that the court ratifies «the success of the families that have defended their right to educate.»

Objectors plan to create an observatory for ideological and religious liberty in order to be vigilant for signs of «indoctrination,» especially through the education for citizenship course.

The observatory, composed of parents, will inspect the textbooks of this subject and will be familiar with the teaching imparted in the Education for Citizenship classes. The subject will be supervised both in public as well as private centers.

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