Should public high schools teach religion

Religious politics

Riem playhouse

To person

is professor for Islamic studies with a focus on education and knowledge cultures at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and head of the department "Textbooks and Society" at the Georg Eckert Institute, Leibniz Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI) in Braunschweig.
[email protected]

Zrinka Štimac

To person

is a research associate at the GEI and coordinates the work field "Religious Change and Social Diversity". Her main research interests are religious diversity and educational media, global educational discourses, and religion and politics.
[email protected]

"Religious instruction is a regular subject in public schools, with the exception of non-denominational schools. Without prejudice to state supervisory law, religious instruction is given in accordance with the principles of the religious communities. No teacher may be obliged to give religious instruction against his or her will." (Art. 7 para. 3 GG)

Religious instruction is the only school subject mentioned in the Basic Law. Nevertheless, it is exposed to recurring discussions, which in the past decade have centered on dealing with religious and ideological diversity. In addition to the Christian religion and its denominations, other "world religions" as well as new forms of religion have increasingly emerged in recent decades. Many people are withdrawing from religious structures, and at the same time religious research has found a resurgence of religion-oriented legitimation and argumentation patterns in various areas of society in a kind of correction of the secularization paradigm that has dominated since the 1970s. The activities of religious institutions are diversifying, [1] and religion is becoming more and more a matter for individuals. [2]

Against this background, the question of how increasing religious and ideological diversity can be absorbed in and through religious instruction in schools is being addressed in various debates. For whom and how many members of which religious communities can denomination-oriented religious instruction be offered by whom? In view of the increasing number of non-religious students, can religious education be held at all? Which alternative educational offers are possible and necessary? In addition to the introduction to (one's own) religion, must I now also impart knowledge about the religion (s) of others? Or does preparation for life in a society characterized by a plurality of meaningful education offerings become the main goal of religion-related school lessons?

International agenda

On a global level, it has been observed for several decades that international organizations such as the Council of Europe, the OSCE and UNESCO, but also smaller organizations such as Arigatou International or the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education, are developing concepts and tools for dealing with Prescribe religion and religious or ideological plurality. [3] The concepts of these international actors are linked to societal and educational phenomena such as social cohesion, diversity and security and are based on the approach of imparting knowledge about religions, of "teaching about religions". [4] In denomination-oriented teaching, this approach is usually used as a supplement to the introduction to one's own religion and its practice, for religious studies it is typically the (only) starting point for dealing with religion.

According to the 2007 Toledo Guidelines of the OSCE, this approach differs fundamentally from religious instruction and religious instruction in that it is not denominational or faith-based. [5] The imparting of knowledge about religion (s) is an important responsibility of the school, whereas families and religious institutions are responsible for moral education. [6] The aim here is to establish and disseminate international principles for "teaching about" access to religion in public education.

The most recent publication of the Council of Europe in this context is the document "Signposts", the result of the work of a group of experts, written for teacher training, teachers and political decision-makers. The recommendations are based on the approach of intercultural education and address not only religious but also non-religious beliefs. [7]