ATHENS – Greece’s National Union of Theologians wants teachers not to conduct classes in religion as a protest in changes introduced by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of atheist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to make the curriculum more secular.
In a letter sent to directors of primary and secondary education schools, the union said teachers have the right to abstain from classes following a ruling earlier this year by the Council of State deeming the changes unconstitutional. It said teachers can still teach the subject using the previous syllabus and textbook, said Kathimerini.
Education Minister Costas Gavroglou said the union’s action was “reactionary and obscurantist,” and that the responsibility for the school curriculum lies exclusively with the state and that teachers have no say. “In our democracy there are rules and laws. No one is above the law,” he said.
The ministry has been trying for two years to change religion classes over the objections of the Greek Orthodox Church with Tsipras alternately pushing for separation of Church and State and then backing away from it.
Former education minister Nikos Filis was ousted after losing a stand-off with the Church over his insistence that religions other than Orthodoxy be taught and that religion classes should be secular in nature.
Gavroglou, who bought out his military time so he wouldn’t have to serve, has been a lightning rod for criticism as well, last year saying that students who occupy schools, a frequent practice of SYRIZA officials when they were young, shouldn’t be unduly punished. “These days, one has to be very careful as young people have their own world and different values and the important thing is not to sever channels of communication,” he said last year.
He also was threatened with violence after saying he wanted to abolish the daily prayer and singing of the national anthem in schools.