.- Bishops in Argentina's Salta province criticized a local court ruling banning Catholic religious education in public schools, arguing that it should be available for those who want it.
“We are not saying that all children should be taught the Catholic religion but rather that all children should be allowed to receive religious education, or to opt out of it, according to the decision of their parents,” the bishops said on March 5.
In his ruling, appeals court Judge Marcelo Dominguez banned Catholic practices such as classroom prayers, grace before meals, the reading of the Bible and the celebration of Catholic feasts.
The bishops stressed that expression of one’s faith privately or publicly is a right that cannot be curtailed as long as it “does not obstruct legitimate activities, such as the functioning of institutions, and does not constitute a imposition or a denial of the rights of others.”
“It is the duty of the public school to respect and creatively pass on the culture and identity of a people,” the bishops said.
They underscored that parents and children have a right to religious education, and that public schools have a duty to provide it.
“Religious convictions are a positive factor in personal and social life,” they said. “In a pluralistic society and within the framework of religious freedom, the contents of religious education in schools should be adapted to the convictions of parents.”
The bishops' statement was published by the AICA news agency and was signed by Archbishop Mario Cargnello of Salta, Bishop Marcelo Colombo of Oran, Bishop Mariano Moreno of Cafayate and Bishop Pedro Olmedo Rivero of Humahuaca.