The new citizenship classes must be taught by "neutral teachers" – those without any religious education in their background, including a degree from a Catholic university.
Since many of the religion teachers have graduated from Catholic colleges or other religious institutions, they are considered "non-neutral," and are therefore ineligible to teach the citizenship class.
And since teachers are required to maintain a certain number of hours to keep their jobs, those with religious backgrounds could find their jobs at risk once their religion classes are reduced to half their current hours to accommodate the new citizenship courses.
The government maintains that no teachers are at risk of losing their jobs.
However, critics charge that part-time teachers – often members of a religious minority – will be slowly eradicated from the schools, since they will be unable to maintain the necessary number of hours to continue teaching.
The Collectif des Enseignants de Religion dans l'Enseignement Officiel – better known by the French acronym of Cereo – is a group of religion teachers in Belgium's state schools. The group has argued against the removal of religion from the state curriculum.
Citing the hatred and fanaticism of the modern world, the group argued that it is more important than ever to "cultivate in each student an intelligent relationship to religion."
In a June 30 letter, the members of Cereo defending the teaching of religion, saying, "We are confident that our courses help combat indifference, fanaticism, dogmatism, intolerance, and violence in times of crisis."
"The courses of morality and religion are places of education that respect all particular beliefs, and promote integration in a pluralistic society," the teachers said. "They are a place of freedom, exchange and debate, respecting the full person of the student."
Cereo is appealing to the Belgian Constitutional Court, with the claim that the religion and morality classes already cover the topic of citizenship.
"We believe that a critical but benevolent religious instruction, taught by masters and teachers combining a journey of faith and a serious training, is in the current circumstances the safest way to develop civic virtue and moderation of our students search for meaning and identity," they said.
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