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2. Youth and education

Children and adolescents are entitled to develop their capability to independently designing their lives. It is the responsibility of parents, nursery schools and schools to create the right conditions for this.

In order to develop the ability of philosophical and religious self-determination, young people need the opportunity, in accordance with their mental maturity, to hear different opinions, not just their parents' opinions.

Nursery schools and schools

Schools offer the opportunity to reach a large number of young people, to impart information and to encourage discussion. It is important to make use of this opportunity: to offer young people a variety of information on different concepts of a successful life, on desirable ways of dealing with each other and on ethics as well as information on different philosophies and religions, on different interpretations of important philosophies and religions and on the criticism of philosophies and religions. And to encourage young people to think about all these things and to talk to each other. The larger the number of different views the better. By discussing and dealing with people with different views, children and adolescents practice important skills required for living in a pluralistic society.

All this is prevented if children and adolescents are separated according to their creeds: in an elective mandatory subject range of religious/ethical education as it exists in most German Länder; and certainly in denominational schools. Instead of talking to each other they talk about each other.

Denominational schools and nursery schools are relics from the days of religious feuds. They discourage from learning how to live with, and tolerate, each other. Furthermore, confessional schools, where the confession dominates the entire curriculum, negatively affect the religious freedom of older students whose convictions have ceased to coincide with their school's denomination, for the alternative, that is, to change schools will certainly be a hardship for many of them. Therefore, denominational schools do not deserve any financial support by the state.

In state schools, there is no room for religious education that is supposed to convey the doctrines of a certain religion or denomination as "existing truth"; like the state, these schools are obliged to be religiously-philosophically neutral. This kind of religious education is out of place there just as party-political propaganda would be.

The above applies to both Christian and Islamic religious education. IBKA does not support the occasional demand for the introduction of Islamic religious education in order to counter-balance Islamic fundamentalism. Instead, IBKA proposes neutral classes in religious and philosophical theory for all students in a class. Such classes can provide alternatives to fundamentalism, too.

What IBKA demands:

  • The principle of separation of state and church shall be consistently applied to the entire public education system.
  • Crucifixes shall be removed from all class and staff rooms of state schools.
  • Praying in state schools taking place outside religious education constitutes a violation of the principle of philosophical neutrality of the state. It is unjustifiable from a pedagogical point of view, because it forces non-praying children into the role of outsiders.
  • Denominational schools shall be permitted as independent schools (private schools) only. Any public and state funding for denominational schools shall be discontinued.
  • All students shall be offered integrative and multi-cultural lessons in life design, ethics and religious and philosophical theory determined by the principles of religious and philosophical neutrality. Apart from information on religious and non-religious philosophies, it is essential that such education includes critical views of both religious and non-religious philosophies. These lessons shall be equally available to all students, whether they still attend an existing class in religious education or not.

The situation in Germany:

In some Länder, the violation of the philosophical-religious neutrality of the state goes particularly far: The constitutions and school laws of some Länder provide that not only religious education, but all education must be given in a Christian spirit. Particularly in the Länder of South Germany, and here extremely in primary, general secondary (Hauptschule) and special needs schools which are openly maintained as "Christian inter-denominational schools", Christian traditions continue to be institutionally embodied. In practice, the Christian inter-denominational schools have proven to be bi-denominational-ecumenical schools.

And that, even though, as early as in 1975, the Federal Constitutional Court, in varying decisions referring to Christian inter-denominational schools in the German states of Bavaria and Baden, had unambiguously held that any Christian missionary work during general classes was a violation of the German Basic Law. Hence, for instance the Bavarian ministry for education and cultural affairs quite openly violated the German Basic Law, and not for the first time, when on December 6th,1988, it announced the "guiding principles for teaching and education according to common principles of Christian denominations at primary, general secondary and special needs schools", which had been jointly prepared by the Roman-Catholic and Protestant church, and declared these binding on all teachers. The constitutional mandate to treat all citizens equally is as significantly violated by the above as by the firm grip of the main churches on the public education system. Non-religious persons and those of other confessions are thus at a clear disadvantage.

Most Länder introduced a compulsory "replacement" subject for students not attending religious education, called, for example, "Ethics" or "Values and Norms". Where religious freedom exists, there cannot be an obligation to attend religious education - and consequently, there cannot be an obligation on the part of those who do not attend religious lessons to accept an alternative. The fact that through this compulsory ethical education, children of non-Christian parents are defamed as being in need of extra tuition in morals/ethics is an absolutely wanted side-effect.

The Christian politicians responsible for the introduction of ethical education have unequivocally declared again and again, in words and in writing, that the introduction of the "replacement" subject is meant to counteract exercising a constitutional right which is most unwelcome to them, namely, the right not to attend religious education classes.

What IBKA demands for Germany:

  • Responsibility for religious education shall be transferred back to the religious communities; to this extent Article 7 paragraph 3 of the German Basic Law according to which denominational religious education in state schools is defined as a regular subject of the curriculum, shall be deleted.
  • As long as religious education is provided in state schools, it shall in general be taught during the lessons at either the beginning or the end of a school day.
  • Nobody shall be obliged to attend replacement lessons instead of religious education. Ethical education in its present form - namely as a compulsory replacement subject exclusively for students not attending religious education - shall be abolished.
  • As far as ethical education still exists as a compulsory alternative to religious education, it shall be constructed as an equivalent alternative to religious education. Churches and associations of religious instruction teachers shall not have any influence on the construction of the curriculums for ethical education; such influence by churches on non-members is not acceptable.
  • Religious instruction teachers shall not be teachers of ethics at the same time, as they cannot do equal justice to both the missionary mandate of their church and the obligation of philosophical neutrality of the state.

Religious instruction should not be paid for out of the pockets of taxpayers and thus of the non-religious and those of other creeds. Religious instruction teachers in state schools should not be paid by the state. Equally improper is the state funding of their training at theological faculties and other institutions not committed to the freedom of science, research and education.

Sex education

Conflicts between religious norms and a self-determined lifestyle exist particularly in the area of sexuality. With reference to religious norms, children and adolescents are still prevented from developing their own sexuality. This happens especially where Christian, particularly Roman-Catholic, thought determines education. The right of children and adolescents to develop their own personality is severely thus restricted.

It is the responsibility of nursery schools and schools to help children and adolescents develop a self-determined sexuality by providing appropriate sex education, and that even against the parents' will, if necessary.

What IBKA demands:

  • Children and adolescents have a right to develop their own sexuality.
  • Children and adolescents have a right to sex education appropriate to their age. This is the responsibility of parents as well as nursery schools and schools.
  • State schools shall provide philosophically neutral sex education for all students.
  • Parents do not have the right to demand that their children be deprived of the right to sex education, or that in sex education, their religious or other personal norms are conveyed as generally binding norms.
  • Children and adolescents have a right to learn that procreation is not the sole purpose of sexuality, but that it is a legitimate source of pleasure and an important element of interpersonal relationships.
  • Children and adolescents have a right to learn how to avoid the risk of unwanted pregnancy or infection (e.g. HIV).
  • Children and adolescents have a right to sex education preparing them for the fact that their sexual orientation might differ from the predominant norm of heterosexuality, and should this be the case, supporting them to deal with this.
  • Children and adolescents have a right to learn that in normal circumstances masturbation will not be harmful to their health and is regarded by many people as legitimate option in dealing with their sexual drive and a legitimate source of pleasure.

Higher education

Theological faculties in state colleges and universities are as out of place as is religious education in state schools. The do not only violate the principle of philosophical-religious neutrality but also the principle of the freedom of science, research and education (Article 5 GG). Theology, in its core, is unscientific: It demands belief for its central doctrines and rejects genuinely scientific verification, i.e. an examination that does not shrink away from potential falsification. If, nevertheless, a theologian dares to examine a central doctrine with serious scientific methods and subsequently announces his/her conclusion that in his/her opinion the doctrine is incorrect, he/she must be prepared for difficulties. Thus Dr. Gerd Lüdemann, professor of theology, had to accept severe restrictions of his working possibilities University of Göttingen.

The church influence over state colleges and universities is not limited to theological faculties. In some German Länder, the churches are even entitled to participate in the appointments to professorships ("Konkordatslehrstühle" -"concordat professorships") outside the theological faculties (e. g. philosophy, educational science, sociology).

To what extent the autonomy of higher education can become a farce, is demonstrated by cases where professors were supposed to be reprimanded for their critical attitude towards the churches (examples are: Küng, Drewermann, Ranke-Heinemann, Voss and the case of the philosopher Max Bense who was reprimanded), or cases where church-orientated professors were forced on a university.

As unscientific as theology is in its core: even in theological faculties there are areas where research was or is done in compliance with scientific standards. This research deserves to be maintained and continued in church-independent disciplines (the science of history, cultural science, religious studies, psychology of religion, sociology of religion, etc.). The history of the Jewish-Christian religion is important for the understanding of European history, and therefore, it is not only of interest for followers of this religion.

What IBKA demands:

  • Theological faculties shall be segregated from state colleges and universities and transferred to the responsibility of the churches. The rights of teachers and other employees acquired either by contract of employment or owing to their civil servant status - to a certain type of employment from the state shall not be affected, even in cases where the church refuses to continue such employment on religious grounds.
  • In so far as scientific research is carried out at theological faculties in certain areas, such areas may be excluded from being segregated and be continued in other faculties of the university or college.
  • Unlike theology, religious studies have a legitimate place at universities and colleges. The scientific research into religions such as the Jewish, the Christian and the Islamic religion at religiously neutral institutions of universities and colleges should be promoted. Such research shall include the history of religion, psychology of religion, sociology of religion as well as the interaction of religions with other areas such as philosophy, social policy, power policy, etc.
  • Clerical influence over the autonomy of higher education shall be categorically opposed to in accordance with the principle of separation of state and church.
  • The so-called Konkordatslehrstühle (concordat professorships) at state colleges and universities shall be eliminated or changed into ordinary professorships, which are subject to the unrestricted autonomy of higher education. Thus, the right of the churches to participate in the appointments to professorships outside the theological faculties shall be abolished.
  • State and public subsidies to church-owned universities and colleges such as the Roman-Catholic University of Eichstätt shall be discontinued.