Bolivian president, education minister slam bishops

.- Bolivian President Evo Morales has joined his Minister of Education, Felix Patzi, in slamming the bishops of Bolivia over massive protests which are arising against the government’s proposed educational reform that would remove religious instruction from schools.

Last June Patzi caused a firestorm by declaring that the Catholicism would no longer be “the official” religion taught at schools and would be replaced by a class on indigenous languages.  The announcement sparked massive protests.  This month he met with the country’s bishops and issued a correction.

Nevertheless, two weeks ago the National Congress on Education led by Patzi approved a resolution that stated, “Education in Bolivia is secular and pluralistic because it respects the spirituality of each culture and freedom of belief, it promotes its own values, and rejects every type of dogmatisms.”

The Congress did decide to uphold religious instruction in schools but decreed that the curricula be adapted in accord with the diverse beliefs of the country, said Raul Copa, a spokesman for the event.

The reaction by Bolivians has been swift, with new protests by both students and parents demanding the resignation of Patzi.

Patzi has responded by ridiculing the protests.  “They are saying we are going to destroy the Church and its beliefs.  How untrue!  Excellencies, do not lie to the people, give them the whole truth, the hard truth.  The truth does not destroy.  Hypocrisy sooner or later will become visible.”  

Responding to student protests in the city of Tarija, Pazti stated, “The Church is now showing her true face.  The Church is now on the side of the oligarchy, because for 514 years the Church has been at the service of the oligarchy and the rich.  Nobody can deny it,” he claimed.

Although President Morales was expected to counter Patzi’s statements, the Bolivian leader opted instead to second them.  He accused the bishops of acting, “as if this were the Inquisition.” Morales claimed the government would uphold religion as a subject in schools, but he did not comment on the removal of Catholicism from the classroom.  Rather, he charged that bishops are “still seeking a certain vestige of power.”

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