Religion and Education: Tensions and Perspectives
From 18 to 21 November 2015, in the Vatican, the Congregation for Catholic Education celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Gravissimum Educationis and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. As part of these celebrations, the Congregation aimed to re-energise the Catholic Church’s commitment to education by means of a World Congress entitled ‘Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion’. The main aim of the Congress was to re-energise the role of Catholic schools and universities that act in the name of the Universal Church. The Congress urged more than 5,000 participants to step up efforts to promote dialogue in times of spiritual poverty, self-referential exclusiveness, harmful spread of ideological viewpoints, and the lowering of the general level of culture.
In line with the aims of the Congress, and under its hospitable auspices, the European Association for Education Law and Policy (ELA) held a special conference. The ELA sessions within the larger Congress focussed mainly on the re-consideration of the role that religion plays in education in general. The main concern of this legal panel, therefore, was the way religious studies, the rights of believers, and non-believers are accommodated in both secular and confessional schools and universities around the world. Thus, the ELA sessions encompassed the transformation and renewal of religion in education in general (not only Catholic education), across various sectors of society.
This issue is a compilation of papers presented at ELA sessions in the Vatican. The papers presented at the ELA sessions were submitted to double blind peer review processes and only the best accepted and selected. The editors are already in possession of a full draft of the manuscript. This draft has been extensively edited for language and coherency already. The contributions composing this issue provide an all-encompassing analysis of the position of religion in education across the globe and how religious distinctiveness in education can be promoted. This volume deals, first, with overarching concepts of accommodating religious distinctiveness at schools and understanding the place of religion in compulsory instruction. Second, it provides important case studies explaining in much detail the various approaches to reconciliation of law and state, religion and education, secularism and diversity that exist in the world.
Although there are books about education and religion on the market, this volume focuses specifically on renewing a passion for protecting religious distinctiveness in increasingly secular societies. Emphasis is placed on how to achieve equality and religious freedom in democratic societies, while focusing on protecting the human dignity of religious adherents (parents and learners/children) through the protection of their religious distinctiveness. The manuscript also compiles the work of several academic experts in law and education and several expert practitioners in law and education (deans, ministers of education etc). The wide spectrum of countries discussed (USA, Europe, Australia, South Africa, South America) provide a holistic picture of religious distinctiveness across the globe. Practical suggestions towards maintaining religious distinctiveness are also provided. What is even more unique is the fact that the manuscript presents various and competing perspectives on religious distinctiveness.