Appeal of the religious education teachers of the Archdiocese of Belgrade-Karlovci

Published On: 07/07/2022

Through this appeal, we, the religious education teachers of the Archdiocese of Belgrade–Karlovci, are publicly speaking up against the gross violation of the right of parents and their children to freely choose and attend religious education classes in schools. The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia guarantees every citizen of Serbia the right to freedom of religion and the right to bring their children up in accordance with their beliefs, and the Law on the Fundamentals of the Education System allows members of all traditional churches and religious communities to have their children attend religious education classes in elementary and high schools. Therefore, all forms of discouraging and preventing children and their parents from opting for religious education is a flagrant violation of their rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Law. The complaints we filed regarding violations in more than 60 primary and secondary schools, out of a total of 221 in which religious education is conducted in the area of ​​the Archdiocese, confirm that these are not just individual cases, but general occurrences. The most responsible for these violations are school principals, who are entrusted by the Ministry of Education with the care and duty to provide a free and transparent opting for religious education to parents and their children, and not to discriminate their own pupils. In this regard, the reaction of our competent Archbishop, Shepherd and spiritual Father – His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije – on his Instagram account, after having received the information about these abuses from us religious education teachers, but also from disgruntled parents, is completely justified and correct.

In addition to the above-mentioned abuses, we are also witnessing other manipulations relating to the conduction of religious education classes in schools, which practically abolished the right of parents and pupils to choose religious classes in many places. This, first of all, refers to the Rulebook, which introduced new rules for the formation of groups for Religious Education and Civic Education in 2008. This by-law of the Ministry of Education was adopted without the consent of the government’s Commission for Religious Education, even though the Ministry was supposed to cooperate with the latter according to the law. The original and fairest practice, from the time of the government of the late Prime Minister Dr. Zoran Đinđić, according to which groups for Religious Education and Civic Education were formed by dividing a class into a group for Religious Education and a group for Civic Education, regardless of the number of pupils in them, was unlawfully terminated. As an alternative, the Ministry of Education has prescribed, in the mentioned Rulebook, a minimum number of pupils (15) for the formation of groups. As a result, many children, especially from minority religious communities, were left without the right to attend religious classes in schools, because there were not enough of them to form groups. Not to mention the fact that many of our colleagues, including those from other traditional Churches and religious communities, have lost their jobs or their salaries have been drastically reduced. The tendency to deteriorate the status of Religious Education and the religious education teachers continued in recent years with the adoption of Professional Instructions on the Formation of Classes and the Method of Financing in Primary and Secondary Schools in the Republic of Serbia. The minimum number of pupils was raised to 30, and the merging of pupils from several classes to form groups practically eliminated Religious Education from the class schedule, which primarily affected the quality of Religious Education itself and the ability of children to attend it within regular classes. We are afraid that all this leads to the expulsion of Religious Education from the school system of the Republic of Serbia, that is, the abolition of the rights of parents and children guaranteed by the Constitution and the Law, but also the loss of our jobs.

Because of all of the above, we, the religious teachers of the Archdiocese of Belgrade-Karlovci, address this public appeal to our educational and wider public, and above all to the competent authorities of the Republic of Serbia, and we ask them to remove all the aforementioned irregularities in relation with the conduction of religious education in schools and enable the normal functioning of the same, in accordance with law and for the benefit of our students.

Religious teachers of the Archdiocese of Belgrade-Karlovci