Atheist Turkish family wins case on compulsory religion classes
An administrative court in Istanbul has ruled that the child of an atheist couple can be exempt from compulsory religion classes at a primary school. An administrative court in Istanbul has ruled that the child of an atheist couple can be exempt from compulsory religion classes at a primary school, Anatolia news agency reported Tuesday.
Parents S.K. and Y.K., whose full names have not been disclosed, first lodged a petition with the local administrator’s office in Eyüp, an Istanbul district known for its conservatism, to have their fourth-grade child exempted from religion classes.
The office rejected the family’s request on the grounds that the religion class is compulsory in schools according to the Constitution.
As a result of the office’s decision, the family filed a lawsuit with the local administrative court, which decided by consensus that the family had the right to have their child exempted from the classes.
Along with Christian and Jewish citizens, atheist people should have the right to be exempt from religion classes, the court said, adding that the Turkish Constitution and the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms protect freedom of belief.
“Religious and Moral Education” is a compulsory course for primary school students in accordance with Article 24 of the Turkish Constitution, which was prepared after the 1980 military coup and approved by a public referendum in 1982.
Despite this, the Council of State found compulsory religious classes in primary and secondary schools to be against the law based on its content in a 2008 ruling.
The classes have been especially criticized for allegedly only teaching Sunni Islam. Alevis, members of a community widely perceived as a liberal branch of Islam whose religious practices differ markedly from those of Turkey’s Sunni majority, have been fighting to abolish compulsory religious lessons or at least amend their content.
The Turkish government, which is slowly proceeding with European Union accession talks, amended the textbooks, but many Alevis remain unsatisfied.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the right of an Alevi child to opt out of religion classes.