Greek Students Won’t Have to Declare Their Religion, Natonality

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis visits the Education Ministry, July 12, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – There’s not yet separation of Church and State in Greece but the new New Democracy government will end a long-standing requirement that schools keep records of the religion and nationality of students.

The Education Ministry said that would also be struck from degrees that students earn and be removed from its own Myschool website.

The decision came two weeks after Greece’s Data Protection Authority (HDPA) ruled that the practice violates the country’s constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights although the number of people in Greece who list their religion as Greek Orthodox has constantly been in the high 90 percent bracket.

Education Minister Niki Kerameus said the ministry’s aims was to “constantly cultivate an environment for learning in schools which is free, creative and without exclusion, fighting every kind of discrimination and respectful of religious convictions,” and that it would protect the personal information of pupils under European Union laws too.

The HDPA found it was illegal for school authorities to list pupils’ faith and nationality on end-of-school certificates on an internal Education Ministry portal, and on declarations non-Greek Orthodox parents must sign to exempt their children from otherwise obligatory religious education classes.

Kerameos said authorities are now taking appropriate actions to comply. Greek schools, she said, should be “free and non-exclusionary.” Greece stopped the listing of religious faith on state identity cards in 2000, despite strong opposition from the powerful Orthodox Church of Greece.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)