Reli Bad Idea: Berliners Reject Substitution of Religious Classes for Civics Classes

70px-coat_of_arms_of_berlinsvgThe citizens of Berlin rejected calls from the Pope, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and others to allow religious classes to be substituted for compulsory ethics classes. It is a victory for those of us who have decried the loss of civics education and the increasing integration of religious training in public education. The campaign was led by a group called Pro Reli — “Reli” is the street name for religious classes.

The referendum actually attracted a small percentage of citizens with only 14.2 percent voting. However, 51.3 percent rejected the proposal to allow religious courses to be used as a substitute — a major campaign among Muslims in the city that also attracted the support of the Pope and Merkel. There were still 48.5 who voted for the change.

I do not see why it is such a radical concept to require all children to learn the shared civic principles of tolerance and pluralism as part of their education. It is not indoctrination but the basis of the constitutional system. With the increase in Western blasphemy prosecutions, such shared values are all the more important to instill in society. While religious groups are perfectly correct in objecting to particular aspects of the training if they are critical of faith, the principle of having such a course should be unassailable. For civil libertarians today, many are saying “Ich bin ein Berliner” (even if it does mean that we are jelly donuts).

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15 thoughts on “Reli Bad Idea: Berliners Reject Substitution of Religious Classes for Civics Classes”

  1. the pope can take his reli classes and cram them up his old holy ass. students should be thought real subjects and not pseudoscience fairy tales.

  2. Berliner, welcome to the Turley site. Your comments have been very well informed and astute.

    In my first post above, I meant to type “pfannkueche.”

  3. V.

    Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa Mea Culpa as I am smiting my chest and asking for forgiveness.

    You are correct where I got the numbers, oh yes the lottery.

  4. Bron,
    I’m against all vouchers. As a Jew I would have preferred to send my kids to Hebrew Day schools and Yeshiva’s. I couldn’t afford to, but it is not government’s job to have assisted me.
    Government’s job is to provide the best secular education to all children, allowing people the option of a religious education, but not allowing them to opt out of the tax system supporting public education.

  5. Mike Appleton: “(…) The effect is that tax dollars are used to subsidize the work of religious institutions. (…)”

    To be nitpicking: that wasn’t the point of the Berlin referendum.

    Under the now affirmed system the nine religious communities who offer voluntary religious education in public schools receive 47 million euros per year from the city-state of Berlin (that’s 90% of the costs) as an allowance for their instruction.

    So they still “get our tax-euros”, but their religious instruction is still just a voluntary addition to the non-denominational ethics instruction.

  6. MikeA/MikeS:

    “The effect is that tax dollars are used to subsidize the work of religious institutions. Under our constitution, at least, I view such programs as clearly violative of the Establishment Clause.”

    Are you against all vouchers or just the ones that would be used at religious schools? And what about financial aide to colleges/universities such as Notre Dame?

    Dont people have the right to send their children to the school that best reflects their values?

    If I could, I would have liked to have been able to send my children to one of the good secular schools in our area and probably could have, if I had a voucher for the amount we spend on education per student in this county.

  7. I see that the students would have chosen religion classes in lieu of the ethics class, and I assume those classes would be taught by adherents of each religion, not by regular teachers and ot fair and balanced.

  8. AY, google wiki on luther 95 Theses: The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences (Latin: Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiaru), commonly known as The Ninety-Five Theses, were written by Martin Luther in 1517.

  9. I recommend subscribing to OneNewsNow. Here’s the fundamentalist take on punishment for free speech:

    “ Poll Should the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act become law, are you concerned that the next step will be that pastors who speak out against homosexuality could be charged with a ‘hate crime’?”

  10. Mike A. is again right on point. This is an initiative that exists world wide and is spread by the proponents of fundamentalism. Their desire is to eliminate any alternative viewpoint, the better to indoctrinate the masses into their ultimately totalitarian and certainly not spiritual views.

  11. Mike A. gave a very good argument about the disaster that comes to the religious and non-religous alike yesterday. I will add one more thing–Pat Buchannan appealing to his higher authority to justify torture.

  12. What the voters of Berlin wisely rejected is occurring indirectly in this country through faith-based initiatives and the school voucher systems in place in a number of states. The effect is that tax dollars are used to subsidize the work of religious institutions. Under our constitution, at least, I view such programs as clearly violative of the Establishment Clause.

  13. You make it sound like one would give the pros and cons of a religious debate. I may have my religious wars confused again, but did not Martin Luther Post the Edicts on some Cathedral in Germany protesting the Popes non-intervention of some serious matters that were important to the people of Germany at that time? I believe that the church was responsive but not for a couple of 100 years or in the Popes case centuries and adopted 47 of the 49. The exact numbers may be incorrect but it was less than 50 and about 2 edicts were not adopted.

    As the result, pupils in Berlin will continue to attend compulsory ethics classes, while religion remains an optional additional subject.

  14. The idea that ein Berliner is a jelly donut is an urban myth. The best explosion of this legend is at wiki:

    A few of us noted long ago that the first mention did not occur until Len Deighton slipped it into his novel Berlin Game in the 1980s. The NY Times editors perpetrated it further in a 1980s era op ed piece, but they saw the error of their ways a few years ago.

    When I was in Berlin, I wanted a jelly donut, so I asked for an got a Berliner pfannueche!

    On the substance of the postings, the proposal urged by Reli, the Pope, and others is completely untenable. Religious groups have unlimited opportunity to offer religious classes to their followers, after school and on Saturday and Sunday sabbaths. In these classes, they would have complete control over the content and presentation of their messages.

    But they would lose that control if they were to turn their message over to paid public school teachers who were not subject to their control.

    Those public school religion classes could become self-basting turkeys.

    The teachers could describe each religion — and then give a fair and balanced presentation of the arguments in opposition.
    They woul

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