News, January '04

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Religious education under review.

16 January The government has recently made important changes in the law about religious education in schools. The Catholic Church in response has adapted its curriculum, while Evangelicals also debate how they should respond. (Evangelical RE is also available in a few schools) Click to read an article reproduced from AC Press, resuming others in the national dailies:

A battle for the nation's soul

Madrid, January 7th, 2004 (

The new Catholic R.E. syllabus, which comes into force in September, will include work on divorce, the purpose of sexuality, genetic manipulation, abortion, euthanasia, self-defence, the death penalty, drugs and alcoholism, according to a government bulletin just published.

Pupils will be able to choose between confessional R.E. and a general Religion class. The aim of Catholic R.E. classes will be to give pupils an understanding of the meaning of life. Religion classes will become compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 17, while it will remain optional in Infants. Other subjects in the Catholic syllabus include: God, Jesus Christ, statues, festivals, sin, and man in a broken relationship from God, himself and others. The miracles of Jesus, and a study of other religions is also on the syllabus.

Secondary School pupils will study the purpose of sexuality, looking at marriage in terms of commitment, faithfulness and the procreation of children. They will also cover topics such as divorce and those mentioned earlier, as well as 'religion in the Constitution', 'faith vs atheism, agnosticism and indifference', and 'church-state relationships.' Infants classes (3-6-year-olds) would cover topics such as 'the sexual difference between boys and girls as a gift from God', 'love of Jesus Christ', 'dialogue with God' and 'expressions of thanks and joy for belonging to a family.'

Left-wing parties and lay parents' groups are up in arms that a non-confessional state allows such topics as divorce and sexuality to be taught in confessional R.E. classes, clearly because they do not agree with what is being taught about them. They take issue with the title 'Divorce and its problems'. The Socialist Party criticises the fact that children will be taught that divorce is wrong, even though the state allows it as legal. The Department of Education pointed out that the Catholic Church already taught on these issues when the Socialists were in power. Furthermore, in those days there was not an alternative Religion class as in offer now.

In fact, a major battle is being fought for the soul of the nation, between those who do not want any ethical absolutes taught to children, and those who want to teach that there is a right and wrong on matters of sexuality, marriage and the family. Evangelicals will not always find it easy to know with whom to align themselves, but they need to be thinking through the issues as a matter of some urgency.

Source: EL PAÍS, EL PERIÓDICO. Editing: ACPress