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Minister Says Greece Will Abide EU Court Ruling on Religion Classes

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Greece’s Education Minister Niki Kerameus. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – After being fined by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for breaching their students rights by forcing them to reveal their beliefs so they can skip religion classes, Greece won't do it again, Education Minister Niki Kerameus said.

“The ministry will address in a coherent manner all the issues raised by the recent court decisions. In this context, it goes without saying that the religious curriculum and the system of exemption from the course will also be changed,” Kerameus said.

The current method also can can even deter parents from making an exemption request, the court said, reported Kathimerini. Greece's Council of State earlier ruled unconstitutional the made by former education chief Nikos Filis to end the catechistic character of religious classes.

In a unanimous ruling, the ECHR court said that authorities do not have the right to oblige individuals to indicate their religion or if they aren't. The Strasbourg-based court said the requirement places an undue burden on parents to reveal information from which it can be inferred that they and their children adhere, or do not adhere, to a specific religious dogma, the paper said.

“The authorities did not have the right to intervene in the sphere of individual conscience, to ascertain individuals’ religious belief or to oblige them to reveal their beliefs,” the ruling said, adding thesystem can even deter parents from making an exemption request, the court said.

The applicants were five Greek nationals, parents and children, who live on the Aegean islands of Milos and Sifnos, the court ruling Greece must pay 8,000 euros ($8913) for damages jointly, to the first three applicants and the same amount, jointly, to the fourth and fifth applicants. It also awarded 6,566.52 euros ($7,314) to the first three applicants for costs and expenses in the ruling.