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article imageGreek judiciary blocks religious education reform plan

By AFP     Mar 21, 2018 in World

A bitter spat over religious education in Greek schools took a fresh turn Wednesday after Greece's highest court rejected government-proposed reforms as unconstitutional.

The leftist administration of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which has fought for the separation of church and state, wants to modernise a system based on traditional Greek Orthodox values.

But the church, whose constitutionally recognised role as Greece's prevailing religion the current government and many academics decry, opposes plans it fears could dilute its influence.

A judicial source said the court found the government plans "distorted the purpose of (religious) teaching which is, according to the constitution, to develop pupils' Orthodox Christian conscience".

The education ministry responded in a statement that while it "respected" and "appreciated" the court decision it lamented "a backward step (which) establishes positions of extreme and obscurantist theological circles".

The ministry pledged to continue to "work for the renewal, pluralism and democratisation of study programmes" in schools as it targets reforms allowing wider coverage of other religions.

A leading Greek bishop and religious associations have led opposition to moves begun in 2016 by the education and culture ministries to revamp religious education.

Former education minister Nikos Filis, a member of the ruling Syriza party, lost his post in a November 2016 reshuffle after a war of words over reforms, with the church wielding great influence in a country where some two thirds of the population profess the Orthodox faith.

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