From : Susan Naidoff Subject : Could it happen here? This article appeared in the New York

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From : Susan Naidoff Subject : Could it happen here? This article appeared in the New York Times on Thurs., April 22, 1993 POLISH CHURCH WINS COURT FIT ON SCHOOL Jane Perlez WARSAW, April 21 - The roman catholic church won a significant victory here today when a constitutional tribunal dismissed a legal challenge to compulsory religious teaching and prayers in public schools. The challenge was brought by the government-appointed ombudsman on human rights, Tadeusz Zielinski, a law professor and prominent liberal catholic, who argued that the teaching of religion was turning Poland into a theocracy. The rules making religion a compulsory subject with grades on a student's report card were introduced last year. In its decision the tribunal, which has the power to decide the constitutionality of Poland's laws, voted against the ombudsman on five issues but ruled in his favor on three minor matters in his challenge. The tribunal said it was constitutional for compulsory religious instruction to continue and for a cross to hang in classrooms for all times, not just during the religion class. Mr. Zielinski, who was appointed ombudsman by Parliament last year, said he had brought the challenge because "we observe the growing interference and pressure of the church on all the three branches - legislative, executive and judiciary. I am afraid we are now standing at the gates of a religious state." Angered by the charges of church interference, the catholic primate of Poland, Jozef cardinal Glemp, had condemned the hearing before the tribunal as a spectacle and an effort to put religion on trial. Tonight the cardinal, who appeared ebullient after the decision favoring the church, said, "we think that the believers have the right to be present in public life." While fewer Poles are attending church regularly and the number of entrants to the clergy has dropped, cardinal Glemp has won a string of political victories in the last year. The church rallied behind the recently adopted anti-abortion law and won passage of a law this year that requires the news media to conform to "christian values." As well as declaring that compulsory religious classes should continue as a subject graded with equal weight as all others, the tribunal also said that it was legal for prayers to be said at the beginning of each class and at the end. Prayers are not the exclusive domain of religious instruction, it said. Parents have been able to withdraw their children from the religious classes if they put the request in writing. The tribunal ruled that it was illegal to demand these written declarations. Many parents in the major cities say their children feel such social pressure in school to attend the religious classes that the option of not attending, whether it be in writing or orally, is difficult to exercise. Mr. Zielinski said after his loss today that he could not pursue the matter further but that Parliament could take up the ruling. A two-thirds majority is needed to overturn a ruling by the tribunal, and such a majority is unlikely, officials said. ...................................................................... This article brought back a flood of memories into my psyche from the time of my own grade-school attendence. This was in the 1950's, and from grades k-5, I attended public school where bible reading after the pledge of allegiance (which I might say did not contain the "under god" reference then) was required. Each student had the weekly chore of leading the class in reading the 23rd psalm, out loud, in front of the entire class. I distinctly remember doing it, but having no feelings about it at all. As it undoubtedly was so obtuse, I don't even remember what it was attempting to propose. Even though I was forced to engage in these activities, and much worse religiously-inspired repression later in grades 6-10 at the hands of parochial school nuns, all this proved to have no effect on my non-belief whatsoever. The amusing ending to this ancecdote is that on April 1st in my sophomore year, I was expelled from the catholic school, for heresy, I suppose. No fooling! * OLX 2.2 * Against abortion? Don't have one!


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