Berlin’s referendum on religion lessons in schools poses fundamental questions about how to foster inter-faith tolerance and the relationship between church and state in Germany, as Reuters reported.
The Pro Reli campaign wants to change the capital’s law to allow pupils to choose between faith-based religion lessons and an ethics course. Berlin, with its long secular tradition, is one of the only German states not to have compulsory religion lessons but a wider ethics course instead.
The main argument is whether children who spend hours at school learning about their own faith have a stronger moral foundation and end up being more tolerant of other religions than children who have a broader education in ethics.
The Pro Ethik campaign says it is wrong to split people up according to their faith at school as it can breed divisions. They say ethics classes should instil children with a strong set of values and a good understanding of other religions. Some people also warn that religion lessons in Berlin’s schools would result in a predominantly Christian agenda.
However, one professor of religion, Harmut Zinser, argues that by learning about several beliefs, pupils can get confused as they are not presented with a single, coherent set of norms.