.- Cardinal Jose Urosa Savino of Caracas defended the rights of parents to request schools provide religious instruction for their children and warned that the Chavez government is seeking to monopolize both public and private education in the country.
Cardinal Urosa said there was a “tendency” on the part of many government officials to monopolize education and that in the process the government is ignoring the rights of parents as well as preventing the Church from establishing new schools.
He went on to note that the Venezuelan people have been caught off guard by the proposed educational reforms that would eradicate religion from schools, “despite that the Constitution guarantees the right of parents to ask for religions formation for their children in accord with their own convictions.” The elimination of religion from schools would go against centuries of tradition in Venezuela, he added.
Its one thing for the state to be secular and for education to be secular in the sense that no one religion is favored over another, but it is quite another to eliminate the religious aspect from the comprehensive formation of children and young people,” the cardinal said.
While religion could be taught after school, Cardinal Urosa said, in practice children would not feel the incentive to have to stay after for an additional class.
He also thought it was odd that debate on the new bill would be taking place during a school holiday, and he called on the National Assembly to postpone discussion of the measure until teachers and administrators return to school from vacation.
The cardinal warned that even Catholic schools would be affected by the new law and would not be permitted to teach religion. “A religious institution that has the right to educate and has established schools has the right to pass on its religion to the children who attend that school,” he said.
Cardinal Urosa urged Venezuelans to get involved in the debate on the proposed law and to attend meetings and peaceful protests to raise awareness about the issue.