Secular School – A Civic Legislative Initiative That Stirred Up Polish Public Opinion

1024px-Fra_angelico_-_conversion_de_saint_augustin
Angelico, Fra. "The Conversion of St. Augustine" (circa 1430-1435) || Wikimedia Commons

Liberté! has recently launched a campaign to create a civic legislative initiative that aims at putting an end to financing religion lessons from state budget. The project has reached the leading media in Poland and has stirred up public opinion in a manner that Poles have not seen for a long time.

The idea is a direct result of an article “It’s High Time to Get Religion Out of Schools” published on Polish website liberte.pl in which the author, Katarzyna Laubnauer – former politician and a member of state authorities of the Freedom Union (UW) and the Democratic Party (PD) – claimed that “there is no reason for religion to be present at schools” and supported her statement by referring to the private nature of one’s beliefs (now religion lessons are, in practice, obligatory for each student – in theory they may choose between religion and ethics lessons – and the final grade a student gets at the end of the year is taken into account while determining the overall GPA). And that was just the beginning.

The article in its brevity and lucidity of argumentation met with a wave of applause and support from many, and a crashing blow of criticism from others. However, the former gave the publishers of Liberté! an idea that maybe in Poland, a country Catholic to the bone (approximately 95% of Poles declare being Catholics) there is an increasing number of people who, despite believing in Christian god, believe also that the state should not pay for lessons which do, in fact, discriminate those remaining 5%. However, such approach usually meets with strong criticism from people who simply do not understand what the proposed legislative is really about – it does not aim at removing religion from schools, it merely tries to convince the Polish government that there are better ways to spend such a huge amount of money – and the lessons could still take place at schools, but the financing should be sought elsewhere. After all, it’s not religion studies everyone could make use of.

As the initiators of the project state, it’s not about getting rid of religion lessons from schools completely, merely about not redistributing over 1 billion Polish zlotys to provide pupils with 560 hours of lessons which could be more useful – extra lessons of geography, history or biology would definitely benefit the youngsters. Moreover, as Katarzyna Laubnauer points out, only 47% of Poles believe that religion lessons should be paid for by the state. But the rest is silence.

The initiative has now over 49 thousands supporters on Facebook. The organising committee is now seeking help in collecting signatures to make the project of the legislative valid for further debate in Polish parliament (100k signatures are required).

Find out more about the campaign (in Polish):

http://fakty.tvn24.pl/ogladaj-online,60/fakty-22-03-2015,526651.html
http://pieniadze.fakt.pl/pieniadze/religia-w-szkolach-za-lekcje-religii-ma-zaplacic-kosciol,artykuly,533261.html
http://wyborcza.pl/1,75968,17653187,Na_ratunek_religii.html
http://dziendobry.tvn.pl/wideo,2064,n/kto-powinien-placic-za-lekcje-religii-w-szkolach,162508.html
https://www.facebook.com/takczyniePN
http://polska.newsweek.pl/lekcje-religii-a-lekcje-etyki-czy-religia-powinna-byc-obowiazkowa-,artykuly,359659,1,2.html
http://wyborcza.pl/1,75478,17658865,_Swiecka_szkola___Tylko_pensje_katechetow_kosztuja.html
http://audycje.tokfm.pl/odcinek/24253
http://www.polskieradio.pl/9/301/Artykul/1405854,Religia-w-szkolach-Chcemy-zeby-placil-za-to-Kosciol
http://wyborcza.pl/1,75478,17647433,Chca__by_lekcje_religii_nie_byly_oplacane_przez_panstwo_.html#ixzz3VFSRt9Bp
http://vod.tvp.pl/audycje/rozrywka/swiat-sie-kreci/wideo/25032015/19124558
https://www.radiolodz.pl/posts/12863-chca-wycofania-religii-ze-szkol-poparlo-to-juz-19-tys-osob
http://wiadomosci.onet.pl/akcja-swiecka-szkola-na-ratunek-lekcjom-religii/zknvkp
http://hartman.blog.polityka.pl/2015/03/22/zeby-szkola-byla-polska/

Olga Labendowicz
Liberte